For many of us studying away from home, travelling back every term break, over Christmas, or even in the summer is not really an option due to distance and of course, the infamously high air fares. A few days in to recharge from busy months of university work are great, but a few weeks or more can become long and… boring. For myself, a student in the UK, below are some of the things I have done to make the most of my time here and honestly, just to truly figure out what my ‘second home’ is all about. Every country is different, but we, international students, are all in the same boat; so hopefully, these suggestions will be helpful for those of you looking to spice things up this upcoming break!
As typical as it sounds, you deserve it. We write our own story, so let’s add a happy ending after a big chapter of hard work at university, with a little city break or simply lazy days under the sun. Here is a plus about being a student, you get a discount for literally everything, including travel and accommodation, so why not make use of it? Studying in the UK, I have had the chance to add another five countries to my list, thanks to the super convenient transport links to Europe. Similarly, wherever you are, it is definitely worth exploring further the neighbouring areas, besides your place of study itself. Travelling is more than just getting away from work; it is an experience of learning about people and life outside of the familiar; something a university lecturer cannot offer.
Life is short, and nine months of your year were already spent on ‘mastering’ university in general, including finding your way around massive campuses. That is why I found discovering a new skill to be essential during breaks. Take part in a class, join a new community or create your own little project; setting yourself a ‘relax’, non-compulsory target during free time will help you quickly get out of your comfort zone and pick up a new ‘art’. Of course, there will be that battle between the devil of procrastination and the hard-working side of yourself, but I promise you it will be worthwhile. First off, it is always fun to start a new term being able to show off some hidden talents; but more importantly, constantly trying out unfamiliar things will help wire your brain to become flexible and adaptable. Learning skills, in my experience, is a way to keep the spark of curiosity and creativity we all had as kids; when we first learn how to speak, how to walk or how to make build a lego house. Furthermore, realistically speaking, in our increasingly automated world, maintaining this susceptibility to new knowledge is what makes you unique; because creativity, as a skill, is irreplaceable.
Wait, let me explain myself. Why fill up a break with more work like it wasn’t enough already during term time? Because, if you work on something you love, it would not be ‘work’ at all! These breaks are perhaps the only time in your student life where you can forget all the external expectations and pressures and focus on developing yourself. If you have spent the rest of the academic year working part-time solely to fund your little trips to the grocers, a few (or many) night-outs to remember or something as necessary as the rent; now is the time to search and work for a cause you believe in. Freelancing, campaigning or even a small entrepreneurial venture, whatever floats your boat. However, this has to be the kind of ‘work’ that you would happily do even if, hypothetically speaking, you would not get paid. Because this is your identity, this is who you are as a person, besides, well, being an international student. Also, to be a bit more grounded, working during breaks will add variety to your career portfolio, support your future choices, bring you an amazing network of people to meet, and lessons you would not have had otherwise!
So, those are my ideas of how to fill up a potentially long and ‘empty’ break. What about you, what are your plans for this summer?