During the school year, when you’re running on six hours of sleep a night and struggling to balance all your various commitments, it’s easy to push off the things you really want to do until the summer. Once the semester is over, you tell yourself, you’ll have time to finally do all those things you’ve been thinking about – reading that book that your friends keep recommending, learning how to cook, or finally committing to getting in shape. Here are our ideas for making sure you don’t let your precious weeks off waste away:
1) Volunteer. Websites like Idealist or VolunteerMatch allow organizations near you to post their volunteer opportunities – you can find ongoing positions or just one-time events, depending on what fits your schedule. Volunteering is a great way to get hands-on experience with an organization that correlates with your personal or professional interests.
2) Learn a language. The summer is a good time to pursue an academic interest that you might not have time for amid all your other classes and assignments during the school year. Enhance your studying with Duolingo, which offers free online language courses, or by quizzing yourself with StudyBlue flashcards. You can improve your skills by watching foreign movies in that language and learning how to cook some of the country’s traditional dishes, because everyone knows that consuming a culture’s most delectable dishes is the best way to better absorb their language…right?
3) Make a reading list. Most students find that they’re so busy during the semester that they barely have time to keep up with assigned reading, let alone any reading they do for pleasure. Besides being a good way to check out of the real world for a little while, reading literary fiction is shown to actually make you a better person: it improves empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence. Do some research and make a list of books you want to read over the next few months, keeping it to a practical number. If you make a checklist of books you’re really excited to read, you’ll be more likely to commit your hours to reading, not mindless web-browsing. Check our Pinterest board for links to some great book suggestions.
4) Attend an outdoor movie screening: there are countless summer film events that allow you to lounge outside on a warm night (with snacks, course) and catch one of your favorite movies, often for free. Do a few minutes of Googling to find showtimes in your area.
5) Learn a useful skill for your resume. Knowing how to use computer programs like Microsoft Excel or Adobe Photoshop or having some basic coding or web programming knowledge can make a big difference when you’re looking for jobs or internships. Many of these programs can be easily self-taught with the help of some online tutorials – try Codecademy, Coursera, or Khan Academy or check out these tutorials for Excel and Photoshop.
6) Develop a new hobby. Always wanted to learn how to cook something a little trickier than pasta? Been putting off that new workout class at the gym? This is a good time to explore something new that you can make into a habit by the time school starts up again.
7) Take a road trip. So maybe you don’t have the time or money for that month-long European backpacking trip you’d been daydreaming about all semester. Even if your resources are slim, you can make it a priority to go on a mini-adventure with some friends and a trusty car. Can’t think of anywhere exciting to drive to from where you are? Huffington Post compiled a list of one thing you “MUST” (emphasis theirs) do in each U.S. state.
8) Be a tourist in your own town. If you’re back in the place where you grew up, you’ve probably grown familiar enough with your hometown to know it like the back of your hand. Try doing the things the touristy things you always say you’ll get around to but never do, like visiting local museums or exploring outdoors areas.