Making the Most of Your Summer

Rachel Alldis

May 15, 2017

It is a glorious time of year – summer!  For student affairs professionals, this means the students have gone home (mostly) and we get to wrap up one year and continue planning for the next.  For graduate students, you have many options in front of you.  You may be taking on an internship, doing a practicum, taking new classes, spending time on research, or actually taking a summer break.  For those just graduating, you are prepping for your first, or next, professional role.  For almost everyone, this is a time of transition and that is a good time for reflection and personal growth.

I love summers because it is my time to get organized, prepped, and ready for the year ahead.  I look forward to having a little more time to clean out my files, to read that book that I just have not had time to get to, and to plan exciting new initiatives for the next year.  It is also a good time to get that vacation in and relax for a while.  Summer should be a time to rejuvenate and get back the energy you need to kick off the year and get started on the right foot.  It should be used to inspire you and introduce you to a new idea, people and places.  Here are some of my favorite tips for making the most of your summer:

Learn Something New.   Summer is the time to catch up on your reading.  Go back and read all the articles people forwarded you throughout the year that you said you would get to later.  Guess what, it is later.  Read a book your colleague recommended, browse the Chronicle of Higher Education each day and stay current on what is happening in the field.  If you do not feel like reading, watch TED talks everyone is talking about, or join a committee or project that people are starting.  Take in whatever information and experiences you can.  This is where some of our best new ideas and inspirations come from.

Make a friend.  Summer is a time to build new relationships or strengthen old ones.  Networking is an important piece of the work we do in higher education.  If you are doing an internship or practicum experience, take the time to get to know your new colleagues and see what relationships you can build.  Call colleagues at other similar or nearby institutions and ask to have lunch or even just a quick phone call to learn more about their experiences.  If you do not already have a mentor, summer can be a great time to find one.  The relationships you build now can serve you for years to come.

Take time to reflect.  Look back at the year you have just completed.  Ask yourself what went well, where can I improve, what new opportunities do I want to take on next year?  Think about what you loved doing most this year and think about how you can do that work more.  What strengths did you use most, what strengths do you wish you could use more?  This summer, think about yourself, where you have been, and where you want to go.  Reflection can be an energizing activity and get you in the right mindset to kick off a new year with purpose and direction.

Have Fun!   Summer is your time to take a vacation or have a stay-cation and become a tourist in your own town.  It is time to ride your bike outside, take a hike, go kayaking, see some place new, or binge watch a show on Netflix.  There are some great ways to capitalize on your summer, but make sure you are also taking time away from work to have some fun, whatever that word means to you.  This time away when you are not focusing on work or school or what is next in your career is important for your well-being.  Bonus, it also helps you feel rejuvenated and allows you to refocus on work.

Trying just one of these tips will hopefully create a spark, inspire, and reenergize you.  Maybe you will find a new passion or rediscover an old one.   If you use your summer well, you can come back to the next academic year ready to bring fresh perspectives and new ideas to the table.  You can make something old feel new again, or make something new feel like it should have always been there.   Let your imagination run wild and have fun while you do it.

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Rachel Alldis serves as the Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residential Life at Mount Holyoke College.  She is actively involved with ACUHO-I and chairs the annual conference Program Committee.  Rachel can be reached on by email at [email protected]

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