Nakul shares some tips on how to make the most of your summer break
There are very few occasions in life when you’re an adult, with more than a month of no commitments, and near-certainty about your plans for the next three years of your life. The summer before and during university is one of these very rare times; it could well be that you won’t get to experience this kind of freedom coupled with this kind of stability until your retirement (and even then, there are no guarantees). So without putting on too much pressure, it’s best to make the most of it.
What that looks like will differ from person to person. Some choose to spend the summer forging connections with friends who are moving away; others, earning money so their student loan won’t be as frighteningly large, or at least they’ll have fewer meals that are just ramen or beans on toast. For others still, it’s about building up skills that will be valuable in future. Whatever your priorities are here, here are our top tips for turning them into a reality – and making the summer during university one that you’ll remember long into the future.
Travelling with friends is a classic activity, and for good reason; these are people you’re close to who you might well struggle to stay in touch with in future, so it makes sense to have one last hurrah. If that can involve some sun, sea and sand, so much the better. We’ve written about possible summer travel destinations for students before, but if your budget doesn’t stretch to international travel, you can have a lot of fun staying in the country and going camping as well, especially if there’s someone among your friend group who has a car and is willing to drive you to see the sights.
What matters is making some memories and cementing those friendships that are most important to you before they go through the strain of everyone being scattered to the four winds as they start university. Just make sure that you’re back in time for results day!
After the long, hard journey of your final years of school and university, crowned by end-of-year exams, it can be odd to spend a summer entirely outside of academic life. At the same time, you’re probably too exhausted from all that work to study entirely independently (though some people do choose to look up their university reading list and make a start before their first term). A happy compromise can be attending a summer school.
After a period when all of your studying has been exam-related, it can be wonderful to remind yourself of the joys of learning for learning’s sake, and the lively, positive atmosphere of a summer school is the perfect setting. You might choose a course that leads directly into your university studies, or try out something you’ve never studied before. Outside of lessons, there’ll be a plethora of excursions and activities, so you can keep your brain active while having a bit of a holiday too.
The summer before and after university is a period when, as we’ve noted, you’ll have a lot of free time – possibly more than you’ve enjoyed for a while. Though it’s tempting to spend three months getting reacquainted with your Netflix subscription and your XBox, you might well not have such a good opportunity to learn life skills for a while. The obvious skill is learning to drive – you could even take an intensive course and pass your test after just a week or two of tuition, rather than having to go through months of hour-long lessons squeezed in whenever you have time to spare.
But there are plenty of other skills you might want to learn, whether that’s cooking, cleaning, ironing a shirt, using a sewing machine, fixing a bike puncture, assembling a flat-pack or any of the other skills you find yourself needing as a newly minted adult.
Not all skills that you might spend the summer (or some of it, at least) learning have to be serious ones that you think could be important to master for your forthcoming independent adult life. It’s also worth noting that every year thousands of students go off to university not knowing how to wash a cast-iron pan, sew on a button, make a soufflé or whatever other skills you might be lacking, and with the help of phone calls to family members and instructional YouTube videos, they all muddle through.
This summer is also a great opportunity to learn skills that are not so vital. Maybe you’ve always wanted to have an assortment of origami patterns memorised, or to be able to juggle, or to knit. Now is the time to learn, especially if you’re going to be moving away from a friend or family member who is willing to teach you.
On that note, students about to leave for university usually think of prioritising spending time with friends who they won’t see as often when they move away, but they might not think of family members. The blog Wait But Why has a particularly stark visualisation of this, the writer noting that of all the time he would probably spend with his parents in his life, 90+% of it had already happened by the time he left secondary school.
When you see your family members all the time, you might well not think there’s a need to make the most of your time together, but if you’re moving away, you may well find that you miss them more than you expect. Just as with your friends, now is the time to make some happy memories.
One of the great things about the modern world is that you don’t need to wait until you arrive at university to start making friends there. For pretty much every university, there are student forums and fresher’s social media pages that you can get involved with to make contact with other people on your course, at your college or in your student accommodation. While chatting to people you don’t know online can be awkward, it can be reassuring to know that when you arrive at your new university, there’ll be some friendly faces. In some cases, these will turn into enduring friendships when you get to know each other in real life; in others, all they’ll provide is someone to hang out with in the first couple of days of fresher’s week. Either way, taking a bit of time to get to know them is definitely worth the effort.
You may well already have heard of the concept of the “Fresher’s 15” – that’s the 15 pounds that people gain in the first year of university, as a result of missing out on their pre-university exercise regime and eating a lot more ready meals, takeaways, and free student union pizza than they might have been used to. It’s a phenomenon that’s exaggerated, but there’s definitely some truth to the idea that people’s lifestyles become less healthy when they go to university. As a result, if you’d always planned to get in shape, master chin-ups or run a 10k in under an hour – but hadn’t been able to due to the pressures of the final year of school – it’s a lot easier to work on that in the summer before university than once you arrive.
All in all how you want to spend summer depends on your need, but spending it wisely is what matters. So, go on, get out there and live your summer to the fullest!