By Chia Suan Chong for EtonX | May 2019
The summer holidays are coming and that means no school, no daily homework, and no busy schedules…at least for now. Instead, you’ll have week after week of endless possibilities. You can do anything you want with your time, so what will you choose?
You could laze in front of the television all summer or hang around shopping malls with friends all day. But you have about 14-18 summers in your entire student life to enjoy before you embark on your working life when the idea of having six continuous weeks of holiday becomes a faraway dream.
How many of those summer holidays have come and gone? And what have you done with them? What can you do to make this summer holiday more productive?
Here are ten ideas:
1. Conquer your fears
What are you afraid of? Heights? Snakes? A room full of unfamiliar people? Public speaking? Facing your fears is sometimes the best way to conquer them. Reflect on the reasons for your fears and what you might benefit from getting over them. Then create an action plan to tackle your fear gradually.If you’re afraid of heights, you might want to start by rolling down a small hill and looking out of the window of a 10-storey building before trying to book yourself in for a skydiving experience. If public speaking is what terrifies you, give a short speech to your family or practise speaking in a safe environment where your audience might share your fear.
Always remember to evaluate the risks involved, think about escape mechanisms if you turn out to have taken on too much and avoid anything that will put you in danger. The key goal should be to stretch yourself and confront your fears, not to confirm them by frightening yourself.
2. Reinvent your space/room
The recent Marie Kondo craze has inspired many people to tidy up and declutter their living spaces. When we are too attached to our multiple possessions, it can stop us from moving forward in our lives.Look around your room. This is where you probably spend a lot of your time. Is this where you’d like to live? What would you change about it? What do you need to do to make that change happen? Start by going through all the things you own and getting rid of things you no longer love and things that don’t bring about good feelings. Then give your room a fresh new look. You might want to move some furniture around, get rid of things which no longer mean as much to you as they once did, or add new decorative items. Give all your things a home e.g. the second drawer for the pullovers and jumpers, the green shoebox for all the socks, the third shelf for all the school books, the silver tray for pens and pencils. When every item has a home, you’ll never struggle with putting things away again.
After all, a tidy space leads to a tidy mind.
3. Declutter your tech
Perhaps the mess that bothers you is not a physical one: Your phone is too full; there are so many open tabs on your laptop that anything takes ages to load; your social media feed is filled with photos you’re not interested in from people you don’t really know. It may be time for a tech declutter.
Most of this will not take much effort but can be time-consuming. Ensure that your photos and videos are saved in a cloud or on your laptop/hard drive and dedicate some time to deleting the unnecessary media and apps on your phone.
Clean up your social media accounts by going through your photos and deleting any that might be inappropriate (ask yourself: will this photo stop someone from giving me a job in the future?). Unfollow or unfriend people who are not a useful addition to your network and streamline your social media accounts.
Like your possessions, your tech should bring you joy not annoyance.
4. Volunteer somewhere/help someone
When we volunteer our time to help others, we fill ourselves with a sense of purpose and knowledge that we are making a difference. In the process, we are also learning new skills and getting to know people we might not normally spend time with.
And there are lots of different ways you can volunteer. If you don’t want to go too far, you could always find a local organisation, like a homeless shelter or a children’s charity that might need a bit of help. If you don’t have a lot of time, you could spend a day on a one-off event.
If you’re looking for a more exciting experience further afield, you could consider volunteering holidays where you might track a jaguar in Brazil, help build chicken coops at Mount Kilimanjaro or teach English at a Tibetan orphanage.
The possibilities are endless but you need to consider how you’d like to contribute and make that commitment.
5. Improve your critical thinking skills
Sir Francis Bacon famously said, “Knowledge is power.” But Sir Francis Bacon didn’t have the internet back in 1597. With the constant information overload that we experience everyday, it is easy to tune out information that is difficult to process. Ironically, the more information that is out there, the more we surround ourselves with familiar things that we already know. After all, how can we gain new knowledge when we don’t know what to trust and what not to trust? Critical thinking is the ability to look at information, and very clearly and logically think, observe and make a judgment. It is a key skill needed in our everyday lives so how can we use the time we have during the summer to improve this skill?
Try and read about something new everyday and develop a questioning mind. When encountering a new argument, ask yourself the 5 Ws and 1 H: Who said it? What did they say? Where did they say it? When did they say it? Why did they say it? How did they say it?
Reflect on your thoughts and your assumptions, and discuss them with your family and friends.
6. Cook an elaborate meal for your family
During the school term, your family members often work hard to ensure that everyone is fed and looked after. It might be nice during the summer holidays to show your appreciation by planning and cooking a meal for them in return. Make a date with the family and ‘book’ the kitchen for your personal use. Decide on what dishes you’d be making, find the recipes, buy the ingredients beforehand, and get ready to impress them.As a bonus, you also get to practise your organisational skills and develop your independence.
7. Take a summer course
You want to learn something this summer but you don’t know where to start. You want to do a course but you don’t want to spend your entire summer on it. Consider taking a short summer course on something you don’t get to learn about at school. If the course is virtual, like the summer courses here at EtonX, you don’t even have to leave your home to do it.
8. Write something longer than a short message
Think back to the last time you wrote something. What was it? Was it a Whatsapp message? A scribble on a Snapchat or Instagram photo? A one-sentence post on someone’s wall? When was the last time you wrote something longer that wasn’t for school/university? This summer, share your thoughts in a blog, write a creative story, have fun with rhymes in a beautiful poem or a funny limerick, or write a letter to someone. Enjoy putting your thoughts and feelings into words and put them away so that you can re-read them in years to come.
9. Build resilience
Things don’t always go as planned and sometimes we are confronted with failure. People without resilience might dwell on their problems, give up and become extremely unhappy. Those with resilience however are able to pick themselves when they fall, and carry on. By building our resilience, we are learning that difficulties are a part of life and often, doing things takes time and effort. We see that failure and mistakes are part of the process, and that we need to embrace them and enjoy the journey. In building resilience, we are teaching ourselves to manage the daily stresses and challenges we face.
So how can we develop resilience this summer? Try doing something that takes time and effort – something that might be challenging at first but with perseverance, can be extremely satisfying: learn to play a musical instrument, speak a new language, go rock climbing or work towards running in a long distance race. And have a buddy with you so you can support each other when you need it.
10. Get work experience
Many employers complain about young employees who enter the workforce without strong employability skills (e.g. problem-solving skills, teamwork skills, positive attitude). Some attribute this to the fact that the youth of today are not taking on as many holiday jobs as the generations before them: jobs that might help cultivate these life skills. You might not want to spend your whole summer working, but consider taking on a job at the weekends at your favourite shop or café. Alternatively, think about the type of company you would like to work for in the future, and get some work experience by offering to intern for a few weeks at such a company.
You might not have many more summers to go before you enter the workforce, so let’s make these summer holidays count.
The EtonX Online Summer School is now available! We have created two-week courses so that you can focus on non-academic but highly transferable life skills to prepare you for university and the workplace over summer. We are currently working with students in over 30 countries and we have four summer courses available: