What Should You Do This Summer? 9 Great Ideas

We might only just be emerging from the depths of winter, but it’s the perfect time to start planning if you want to have a summer to remember.

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In the UK, school students get 6 weeks off over the summer to do as they please, and in other countries, it can be even more – Irish schoolkids get 9 weeks off, while Portuguese school students get a full 12 weeks off school over the summer. If you’re already at university, of course, you get even more. That’s a lot of time to fill, even with a week away with the family, time spent catching up with the dog and the need to beat your friends’ high scores in Candy Crush factored in. After the year at school or university, you might think that a few weeks spent mostly on the sofa is just what you need, but boredom tends to kick in a lot sooner than you’d think.  
In this article, we take a look at the exciting variety of options available for you to fill those long summer weeks, whether that’s with something that will advance your academic career or help you figure out what you’re going to do when you graduate, or simply something that will enable you to make friends and have a good time.

For those aged 8 to 12

1. Improve your language skills

It’s generally held that the younger you are, the easier it is to learn languages. It’s not just that your brain is more wired to language acquisition when you’re younger, but also that you have fewer inhibitions about sounding silly when you pronounce things wrong, and that makes it easier to get the practice that you need to master a language.

The summer is a perfect opportunity for immersive language-learning.

While you might have language lessons in school, one of the most effective ways to learn a language is through immersion – going away somewhere and focusing exclusively on communicating in that language. It might even be that you can spend your breaks and evenings communicating in that language too, for extra speedy learning. One such course is Oxford Royale Summer Schools’s Junior English Programme, where you live and learn in a British boarding school, surrounded by friends from all over the world, which is a great motivation for learning how to communicate with them better.
If English isn’t your target language of choice, there are language programmes all across the world. Perhaps you want to brush up on your French at the heart of Paris, or even learn Irish in the heart of the Gaeltacht, with the sea on your doorstep.

2. Visit a new country

At your age, there should be plenty of countries that you haven’t yet had the chance to explore. Maybe you’re travelling with your family (there are lots of companies that offer places free to the under-12s) or perhaps this is the year that you’re first going to try travelling on your own.

Is this the year you’ll try travelling on your own?

British Airways no longer offers its Unaccompanied Minors scheme, whereby flight staff would act as ‘flying nannies’ for children under the age of 13, but some other airlines will offer escort services. Alternatively, your parents might accompany you to your destination and leave you to be independent from there. Summer schools like Oxford Royale Summer Schools will collect students from the airport so that they’re supervised for their entire stay. And you could make the same arrangement if you were travelling to spend time with family overseas.
It may not even have occurred to your parents that there are options for you to travel independently at your age, but if it’s only a short flight and you can have airline staff supervising you, there’s no reason not to travel to a new country for a summer camp by yourself.

3. Try a new adventure

How adventurous are you feeling?

Would you rather take a break from learning academic skills or practising your languages over the summer? Beyond the academic options, you could try out any manner of summer camp dedicated to all kinds of sports and activities. There are camps for horse riding, football, tennis, ice hockey, archery and just about any other sport you can think of. In terms of activities, you could try a music or drama camp. And there are whackier activities still, such as using your summer as a chance to learn circus skills.
If travelling all the way to a camp isn’t an option, these are also the kinds of activities that may well be available locally – check out your local youth clubs or arts centres to see what they’re putting on for the summer holidays. That might also be an option if you’re worried that a full week or fortnight of your chosen activity will be too much; an hour per day of football (for instance) might be more manageable that eating, sleeping and breathing it for seven whole days – especially if you’re realise by day 3 that you’re not as interested in football as you thought you were.

For those aged 13 to 18

1. Learn new skills

Are you a budding fashion designer?

If you want a break from the academic grind, but you don’t want to spend the entire summer with your brain switched off, one great option is to try out a new skill or subject that you’ve never studied before. You could learn about the built environment on a course on Architecture, about the world of Fashion and Textile Design or even get to grips with the complexities of  Computer Animation.
Just as in younger age groups, there are heaps of possibilities to learn new skills internationally, and there may be some good courses available on your doorstep as well. The difference is that being older, you have more independence to seek out what’s going to be interesting and useful for you. And if there’s a subject that you’ve never had the opportunity to focus on at school – but you think it might prove interesting in future – then this is the ideal time to try it out properly and see if it’s right for you. You could try something that’s completely new to you and end up with a new hobby, or even something that could be the basis of a career.

2. Explore future university and career options

Do you have your heart set on a particular career path?

On that note, if you already think you have an idea of what you want to do long-term, you can use your summer holidays to figure it out for sure. You might be set on becoming a lawyer or a doctor, and so you could spend time over the summer building up skills and getting advice on how best to pursue that career path. It might surprise you how many different possibilities are out there, whatever your interests may be.
Alternatively, if they’re available for your chosen career, you might want to look into work experience or an internship. For something like journalism, this is not only important in showing early commitment on your CV, but also in figuring out whether the daily slog of processing press releases and looking for local stories is as interesting to you as the Watergate-style investigations you might be imagining. Even if such opportunities aren’t being openly advertised, it’s always worth picking up the phone (in preference to email) and giving an employer a call if you’re interested in work experience with them – they may well say yes.

3. Get involved in local volunteering

Put your free time to good use.

One way to make the most of your summer holidays is to use the time for the benefit of others, by volunteering locally. If you live in a town or city, it’s likely that there will be lots that you can do, regardless of your skillset; and you might even learn something from it as well. For instance, if you’d really like some retail experience, charity shops are always looking for volunteers, and if you’re old enough, they’ll be happy to train you up on the till.
Or perhaps you’d like to be involved in something that’s a bit more hands-on? You might consider volunteering at your local food bank or soup kitchen; some of these roles will have age restrictions, but they’ll usually be able to find something useful for you to do. There are less intensive volunteer roles as well – you might be able to walk dogs for your local animal shelter, or work with a local scout or girl guiding group. If you’re at the older end of this age bracket, there may be volunteer teaching roles that you could take up, whether that’s English for refugees or reading practice with local schoolchildren.

For those aged 19 to 25

1. Do some good overseas

There are plenty of excellent opportunities overseas, but choose carefully.

Once you’re over the age of 18, the range of options available for volunteering increases considerably, including the exciting possibility of volunteering overseas. You could get involved in activities such as building schools, digging wells, teaching children or helping to conserve the natural environment. It’s important to be careful with your choice of programme, as some can do more harm than good (e.g. volunteers taking on roles that locals might otherwise be paid for), but if you do your research, you should be able to find something that’s both enjoyable and worthwhile.
You don’t necessarily need to go to the developing world if that’s not your cup of tea – and working in a developed country can help avoid some of the negative impacts of volunteering internationally. You could research whales in the Hebrides or track bears in Sweden. Not only will you get a chance to make the world a better place, you’ll also learn new skills that you might never have thought of, experience a country from a completely different perspective and make new friends at the same time.

2. Network with peers from all over the world

Having friends all over the world is a fantastic opportunity.

Your late teens and early twenties are a great time to get to know new people. After all, when you’re looking for jobs in future, you don’t know where in the world you might end up. Whether your future takes you to Berlin or Bogotá, it’ll be much easier if you’ve already met one or two people from that part of the world, and know what the culture is like there.
Where might you get the chance to meet people from all over the world? Conventional holidays that target your age group are one option – sharing a tour bus with a group of people is a great way to make new friends fast. Or you might like to know the summer camps aren’t just for younger teenagers; whether it’s Business, Politics, English Language or a host of other options that you’re interested in, you can expand your educational horizons with like-minded peers from nearly every continent in the world, plus parties to balance out the studying.

3. Expand your career horizons

Now is the perfect time to get your career on track.

A top priority for most young adults is boosting their career prospects, and your summer holiday is one of the best times to do it, free from the stress of university. The obvious choice is to look for an internship, and in a previous article, we’ve explored at how you can turn that internship into a full-time job. Even a short internship of a few weeks can be helpful, not only in terms of enhancing your CV, but also in helping you work out whether that field is the right career choice for you.
But you can also look to enhance your CV in other ways. For instance, working on your language skills can give your career prospects a boost. There are other skills, such as first aid or events experience, that are an asset to your CV in almost any job, and these are easily acquired over the course of a summer holiday, either if you attend a course every week, or if you go away for an intensive course. Some people even learn how to drive this way, which is a skill that’s definitely worth having.

Whatever it is that you ultimately choose to do with your summer holiday, good luck, and above all, don’t forget to enjoy yourself.

Image credits: beach; sunflowers; grammar; plane; zipwire; fashion; doctor; charity; orang utanearth; work