Despite the rain, summer is finally upon us. For many Bright Network members this means time off from university, foreign holidays, lie-ins and lazy days in the sun (hopefully!).
It’s all too easy to fall into a languid pattern of partying, eating, sleeping and repeating with weeks of free time ahead of you. Here's a little list to help you stay intellectually stimulated and productive during the summer months - while enjoying your well-earned break.
A lot of my friends are using their 12 week break to travel and see the world. And I don’t just mean lying on a beach in Zante but taking part in volunteering projects abroad.
At planmygapyear.co.uk programmes start from £150, plus flights and insurance, for a one week trip. Destinations include Cambodia, India and Tanzania and you can create the perfect experience for you - from teaching English as a foreign language to helping build schools, from working to empower women in rural communities to volunteering with local hospitals.
If you’d rather a less structured trip, why not find a few friends and plan a holiday somewhere unique? Friends of mine have just been to Sweden and Slovakia, neither of which are typically known for their tourism, and they can’t stop talking about how interesting it was to experience life in such different cultures. In any case, with the pressures of university, work experience and the real world looming, this summer may be the only opportunity you’ll get for a while. Make the most of it.
2. Tackle that reading list
For Bright Network members studying an artsy subject, you'll already be familiar with the dreaded reading list. While I’m not suggesting you take the summer to familiarise yourself with the Renaissance Italy module you’ll be taking next year, I do think everyone should make time to read during their holidays.
Why not try some classics, while you’re at it? I suggest The Great Gatsby and LesMisérables, if for no other reason than to add an extra dimension to your understanding of the Hollywood films. Alternatively, Frankenstein and Dracula are brilliant examples of how the written word can be much scarier than any visual adaptation. My own summer reading list is 61 books long, not including the random guilty pleasures I’ll pick up at the airport – time to get stuck in.
3. Take up a sport
Summer, with its long days and pleasant weather, is the perfect time to take up a new sport or revive enthusiasm for an old one. Traditional summer sports like cricket and croquet are obvious favourites, and fresh water swimming is great if you’re close to the beach, a lake or river. But have you given thought to sports of a more extreme nature? Zorbing, underwater hockey and surfing may be of more interest to those looking for a thrill and they can all be done safely and cheaply in the UK.
If thrill-seeking’s not your thing, try a zumba class or consider running a race for charity. Cancer Research’s Race For Life is taking place in thousands of locations around the country, with a range of distances to choose from. For the braver (and fitter) among us – there’s always a marathon, triathlon or IRONMAN.
4. Learn a life skill
The most important life skills to have are driving and cooking - once you know how to do both, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without them. Obviously this one is only relevant if you can’t already do both.
For many students heading off to university, self-catered accommodation is a necessity to save on already high living costs. And while you can survive on own brand fish fingers for the first few weeks, knowing a few key recipes can make cooking for yourself easy and enjoyable. Top tips include sucking it up and asking your mum for help or pick up a copy of a student cookbook - Amazon is full of them.
Learning to drive is a very useful skill to have especially in our increasingly mobile labour market. Most employers will expect you to travel locally and nationally for meetings or temporary placements, and driving is always preferable to being at the mercy of public transport. Having your own car is a big bonus too, if you can afford it.
The most important thing to remember is this: with some forethought and motivation, it's much easier than you think to have a productive summer. Fingers crossed the rain stops!