Five things to do this summer (besides nothing)

Prof. Pettigrew offers some suggestions

Photo by justinrussell on Flickr

If you have finished a year or two of university, it’s tempting to sprint into your summer months with abandon, not giving school work another thought until Labour Day. But what if you still considered yourself a student in between semesters? Surprisingly, there’s a lot to learn even when the sun is shining. Here are five things to consider for those lazy hazy days.

1. Take a course. Obviously, not everyone can afford the time and money required for a summer course, but if you can swing it, it’s a lot more pleasant than it sounds. For one thing, summer courses are condensed, so you get through the material quickly and it’s easier to remember everything when the final exam comes around. Also, if you ask really nicely, your prof may hold class outside.

2. Follow up. Do some of that reading you didn’t do during the year—David Copperfield is actually really good. Or read something you liked again. Or read more by someone who intrigued you. Alternatively, choose a theme for your summer reading. Like the big Russian novelists, or everything that P.G. Wodehouse ever wrote. Or The Count of Monte Cristo—that’s a theme in itself.

3. Get ahead. What courses are you taking this fall? Why not do some preliminary reading to familiarize yourself with the subject? I did just that before I started my PhD and it saved my life, because, yes, advanced literary theory will try to rip your brain out through your ears if it smells fear.

4. Get out there. Whatever your field of study, there are some real world applications. English majors, go see that Shakespeare in the Park production. Historian, get into some museums. Biology student, um, go cut something up. Or discover human pheromones. Be pro-active, that’s my point.

5. Get a lousy job. One of the smartest guys I ever knew used to spend his summers driving a forklift. Maybe he just liked forklifts, but I have a hunch now it was to make himself appreciate school more fully. Before I became a prof, I worked briefly selling textbooks. The people I worked with were great, but there were a lot of days trudging through the snow to make cold calls at the doors of icy professors. When teaching seems unrewarding, I think back to those days.

Bottom line is the university summer is long—nearly five months, give or take. Don’t waste it.

Or at least, don’t waste it all.

Todd Pettigrew is an associate professor of English at Cape Breton University. Follow @toddpettigrew and @maconcampus on Twitter. Click here to like us on Facebook.




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Five things to do this summer (besides nothing)

  1. Do you remember me telling you how I used to read all the novels you assigned in the school year the following summer? I wanted to read them during the year but was just too overwhelmed. I enjoyed reading them in the summers. Robertson Davies became one of my favorite authors because of that strategy. I would have missed out otherwise.

    I laughed out loud at “will pull your brain out through your ears if it smells fear”. Social work sometimes gets viewed as a “bird degree”. It is not. At least not at the U of W. Sometimes I felt like organic chemistry was less intense and I still have nightmares about that course 8 years later (Do you realize its been 9 years since I first walked into your class?!).

    There is something to be said for getting a “lousy job”. I worked many different ones through university. They ALL made me appreciate my career so much more. Don’t get me wrong, some were a lot of fun. But they were also katty (yes katty, an all female lifeguard staff is the most political job you’ll ever have), hot, tiring, tedious, and low paid. Secondly, I think there is something to be said for giving your brain an academic break and doing something hands on. At the end of grad school I remember really wanting to go and work on a farm. Many of my friends apparently felt the same way. So I sought out doing some of that work in my spare time. Even now, when I need a break from work, I doing something more “hands on”. Last Saturday it was launching lobster traps. Its just fun to use a different part of my brain sometimes.

    Great article as always Todd.

    Jessi

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