A fruitful summer

A fruitful summer

Summer vacations are a good time to unwind. But slacking off too much is not a good thing. Aruna Sankaranarayanan tells you how to utilise this time well, and widen your horizons academically and otherwise.

Your exams are finally done. Regardless of how you’ve performed, you heave a sigh of relief. And you have every right to relax and unwind. Binge watch a TV show. Go out with friends. Update your Facebook profile. You now have the time to engage in pursuits that you shied away from during your exams. But after a couple of weeks, you may feel that you have more time on your hands and you would like to do something more than just hanging out with friends or surfing the Internet. As a long summer vacation stretches before you, what options do you have to make your holidays more fruitful?

Doing a six- to eight-week internship can be a life-altering experience for many people. Studying and loving a subject in college and applying that knowledge in a job setting are indeed vastly different experiences. So, even if you are sure of your chosen field of study, an internship can provide a window into what you will be doing in the future. Do you foresee yourself working in such a job for at least two years? What are your longer term prospects? An internship can help you test the waters before you actually take the plunge.

And, if you are unsure of your chosen field, an internship is a great way to try something different. Instead of waiting to graduate, and then trying different jobs, an internship may pave the way for your future vocation. And, even if you don’t like the experience, it’s not a wasted effort because you now know that you are not suited to that particular job or field.

Testing the waters
An internship can indeed provide you with very pertinent information that you cannot glean from outside. But beware that many internships do not provide structured roles for you. In fact, companies or organisations may not be quite sure how to fit you in. But even if you aren’t given a very meaningful role, you can learn by observing those in whose shoes you would eventually like to walk in.

You may also talk to people across the organisation to understand what the demands of various jobs are, and how people find their work. Thus, what you get out of an internship depends largely on you. If you are interning over the summer just to enhance your resume, you probably won’t gain maximally from the experience. However, if you are concerned about widening your horizons beyond traditional academic knowledge, an internship can turn out to be eye-opening if not transformative.

Vacations are also a great time to plan ahead. During the hurly-burly scurry of each semester, you probably have very little time to mull over important life decisions. If you want to study further, use the extra time in the summer to investigate possible courses for higher study. In addition to scouring the Internet, you may get in touch with alumni or other students to find out more about institutions you are eyeing.
Find out their admission criteria and check to see what else you might have to do. If you need to prepare for entrance or competitive exams, summer may be the ideal time to start studying. It is understandable if you groan at this point as you have just gone through the ordeal of exams. But if you don’t utilise the
summer, you may be filled with regret when your load more than doubles next semester.

Of course, everyone does not have to tread on the beaten path. If you are a more free-spirited person, give vent to your wanderlust. Travel to a remote destination that is not on many people’s tourist agendas. Or, visit your ancestral village, the one that is famous in family lore but no young person has ever visited. While travel may not lengthen your resume, it can enhance your mind and broaden your vision in unexpected ways. Don’t feel guilty if your peers are busy with coaching classes, postgraduate admissions or internships. Some experiences are enriching simply because we submit ourselves to the whims of fate, at least for the time being.

But you don’t necessarily have to wander far and wide to have meaningful encounters. If you feel you are at loose ends and want to do something worthwhile, volunteer at a local non-profit organisation that engages in issues that strike a chord with you. Or, learn a new skill that you always longed to master. Or, better still, try cultivating a skill that you were not even aware of. From quilting to calligraphy to carpentry to learning a language, you can discover hidden facets within yourself.

Unlike previous generations that grew up without the Internet, you literally have a world of resources at your fingertips. If you can’t afford to enrol for a course, there are gazillion online platforms that can get you started on almost any skill or hobby. You only need adequate doses of determination to persist long enough so that you actually acquire a new dimension.

Look ahead
And, finally, as the vacation draws to a close, it is time to brace yourself for the inevitable. Regardless of how you have done on the exams, your results are not a reflection of everything you stand for. If you end up doing well, pat yourself on your back and celebrate. But, often, things don’t quite turn out how we expect them to. If you are disheartened by your performance, don’t despair for too long. No matter how well or badly you have fared, your exam results are ultimately just a number that doesn’t quite capture who you are.

Despite what others, including parents, may say, there are always second and third chances in life. Failure doesn’t in any way signify the end of the road. Rather, your abysmal performance may turn out to be an opportunistic moment for you to re-evaluate your goals. If you still hold on to your dreams steadfastly, then you just need to strive as hard as you can yet again. On the other hand, if you would like to pursue another line in the future, then simply look ahead.

(The author is director, Prayatna, Bengaluru)

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