Student Perspective

Summer: Sun, Sand, Seas… and Internships?

by Benjamin Skye | May 10, 2010 | Student Perspective 0 Comments

One of the most exciting things for an international student in the United States is the summer break. Particularly for students such as me who have studied under the British elementary and high school system where the school year goes from January to December, having three months off is a foreign yet much anticipated experience.  I remember my first summer when I got to go home to Malaysia and be with family and friends for an entire three months. At that point, I hadn’t seen any of them for almost eight and a half months so it was about time I spent some time with them.

My second summer in college was a lot different from my first. Due to some significant financial constraints, I was not able to travel home. Thus, the summer following my sophomore year was the summer that I got to stay back in Abilene. It was an interesting period I must say – the campus was practically deserted for the most part, save for pockets of administrative staff, facilities personnel, a handful of international students and the occasional groups of summer camp kids who would overrun the campus grounds.

Summer: Great time to hit the beach... just make sure a tan is not the only good thing you get out of your summer.

Summer: Great time to hit the beach... just make sure a tan is not the only good thing you get out of your summer.

This summer will be my third summer since I set foot on the Hardin-Simmons University campus. I will be getting married at the end of May and then heading to Florida for my honeymoon before jetting home with my wife to visit my family and friends. Now if you look at my summer plans, it still involves a lot of the usual “summer activities” of sun, sand and seas. (Penang, my hometown is an island with beautiful beaches, and Florida? That’s pretty self-explanatory.) However, college students must not forget that summer is also a time for them to seek out experiences that will allow them to put into practice their academic training in order to develop themselves professionally. One cannot underestimate how much a well-spent summer can contribute to your career post-graduation.

Here are five things you can do to make sure that a tan is not the only good thing you get out of your summer:

1) Take a May-term/May-mester course:

Most universities offer a short three week long May term course where students enrolled go to class for several hours each day for five days a week. This may sound tedious but it really isn’t as difficult as it seems. Sure, a student might be tired after a whole school year, and since the May-term courses typically begin the week immediately after finals, most students want to take a break, naturally. However, the benefit of taking a May-term lies in the fact that you get to knock out a 3 hour course in 3 weeks instead of throughout an entire semester. In addition, the term ends usually by the last day of May which means you still have all of June, July and most of August to have fun. In some schools, housing during May-term is free – an added bonus. In other words, May term is a great time to knock out that one course that you don’t want to take during the regular semester and since it’s going to be the only course you take, the workload is not really that bad at all.

Internships: A great way to know more about your future career field and yourself.

Internships: A great way to know more about your future career field and yourself.

2) Participate in an internship:

Internships are a great way for you to get familiarized with whatever career field you are hoping to get into. By working under the mentorship of the experts in your future career, you are getting a glimpse of what professional life could look like for you.  This gives you an opportunity to discover the field as well as discover yourself. For example, you might discover in the midst of your internship that as much as you enjoy studying biology, you really prefer being outdoors instead of working in a lab all the time. In addition, internships also provide the perfect opportunity to establish new networks by meeting new people. As much as you may be qualified for a job, sometimes, it’s that one personal encounter that could make the difference between whether or not you get the job you want. Most long term internships are usually paid. However, if an opportunity to participate in an unpaid internship that really interests you arises, you should definitely consider it as long as you are not starving yourself over the summer.

3) Get a part-time job that enhances your skills.

"May I take your order?": Don't underestimate how approaching a summer job with the right frame of mind can contribute to enhancing your credentials as a future employee.

"May I take your order?": Don't underestimate how approaching a summer job with the right frame of mind can contribute to enhancing your credentials as a future employee.

Internships may not always be available where you are during the summer. If such a situation arises, consider getting a job that may not necessarily be related to your career field yet still allows you the opportunity to enhance certain skills. For example, if you are a marketing/public relations major but there are no marketing firms or PR job openings where you live, then try your hand at working as a food server at a restaurant. Working in a restaurant provides you with the perfect environment to work on your people skills. While you are at it, also try and keep an eye on how these restaurants market their products. The most defining element here is realizing what you are doing is not “just another “summer job.  I can tell you from experience that if you’re truly serious and conscientious about working on a particular set of skills while in the midst of a job, you can truly make significant progress – all it takes is a little bit of what I would like to call “purposive action.”

READ READ READ: Keep your mind stimulated. (Also read books/articles on job interviewing skills!)

READ READ READ: Keep your mind stimulated. (Also read books/articles on job interviewing skills!)

4) Read that book that you’ve been wanting to read (or that has been recommended to you).

In between assignments and examinations, it is often difficult for a college student to find time to read additional books during the school year. After all, if we are honest with ourselves, most of us in college would rather be doing something less “mentally” grueling when we have time off. However, the summer provides an entirely different dynamic – there may not be anything around you available to stimulate and engage your mind. In order to keep your intellect well-oiled, find a good-read. There must be some book that may have interested you during the course of the semester that you just couldn’t find time to flip through – it could even be a textbook that you used during the previous semester that seemed to have beneficial information on your field (Yes, textbooks have useful information I promise). Furthermore, I would greatly recommend picking up a book on the art of interviewing for a job. When I attended a leadership and networking conference last summer with Monster.com, a leading job-search website, the human resource personnel conducting our workshop told us that he was appalled at how so many jobseekers lack the proper skills required to do well in a job interview. Do not underestimate how important it is to start considering these things while you are still in college. Please – read a book – especially one on the art of interviewing.

5) Start thinking about your capstone/senior year final project.

Most universities require a capstone project or its equivalent as a prerequisite for graduation. For some majors, it may involve writing an extensive research paper on a topic within your field while for others it may be a group presentation as assigned by the professor. Whatever it may be, capstone projects usually require a lot of time and effort to complete seeing that it serves to synthesize what you have gained from your college career. For that matter, it is important that you approach this with great thought and creativity.  Take time out in the summer to consider possible topics that you would like to research. Feel free to brainstorm, create a shortlist and look up various resources. You might even compile a binder with material that you think would be useful when you get down to writing your capstone paper. I’m not suggesting that you spend 20 hours a week during the summer on something that you will be working on all through your last semester. All I am saying is that by laying some groundwork during your free time this summer, you might be able to survive even the most “lethal” bouts of “senioritis” prior to graduation.

Add a Comment