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FastWeb Column: Summers Past and Future

This story was published in 2006 for FastWeb, an online education resource and scholarship search engine.

It’s 90 degrees and there is a small breeze. Somewhere an insect is buzzing. I am in my recliner, reclining. It’s lazy out. And there’s still one gorgeous hour left until my next class starts.

Class? But it’s the middle of August!

It’s buggy, muggy and a million degrees. I arrive at lectures looking like I’ve spent the morning paddling around under Niagara Falls. (When the mosquitoes are whining, I feel entitled to join in.) But the worst part about summer is not how quickly it passes. In my mind, the stupid season won’t take the hint and leave. It hangs around, slowly pulling away from me like taffy from a finger.

I think the worst (and best) part of summer is deciding how to spend it. Which brings us to this week’s question – what’s the best thing to do during your college summers?

There are plenty of pleasant ways to while away the sunny months. Traveling is a wonderful choice. As a student, you aren’t shackled to a job, family or pet and your parents might still be feeling sentimental enough to toss a few bucks your way. Lots of kids go to Europe, but I’d rather choose somewhere off the beaten path. (Like Iowa. What’s in Iowa, I ask you? Go find out.)

Interning is the best way to snag job-oriented experience, though if you want to go into a popular field, an internship is a way to keep up with your peers, not get ahead of them. To find a gig that suits your needs, do your homework (I know it sounds alarmingly like school, but trust me). You want an offer that will allow you to 1) learn as much as possible and make as many connections as you can and 2) boost your résumé and help you get a job in the future. Interning is an intense experience and has the potential to teach you scads of helpful information. I want to stress, however, that no matter how competitive your field is, you have time to spend on less academic pursuits. Many employers value personal experiences – like travel or volunteering – as much as licking envelopes at a high-powered company.

I have a number of friends who use their summers to beef up the old bank account. Retail and restaurant work are the two most popular choices, and I fully admit to being jealous when these kids return to school flashing stylish new digs or the latest piece of cool technology.

The get-a-job plan sounds nice, but it has its pitfalls. One positive is that you get to spend time at home. This positive would also qualify as a rather large negative. You won’t do your own laundry, but you’ll have to be in by ten and explain every single pop culture reference you make. Total buzzkill.

Overwhelmed? Don’t despair. Choosing what to do with your summers is kind of like being in kindergarten again — options abound! You could be an astronaut or a firefighter or an athlete or a used car salesman or an intern or a waitress or a camp counselor or a roadie…

Do what you’re comfortable with, but don’t waste this time. As innocuous as they seem, these three vacations can be critical factors in determining what options you have in that most exciting of summers – the one after graduation.

If worst comes to worst and you get stuck with plans you hate, take comfort in the fact that in three months you’ll be back where you belong. In class.

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