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Is work experience and internships the priority, or is it okay to take the summer off and enjoy some relaxation?

In less than three months, the vast majority of the student population will be celebrating the end of yet another academic year and waving goodbye to academic stress until September. We may have regained our freedom in some ways, however, for many, summer is just the beginning of a new set of pressures and uncertainties. This year, in particular, the flame has been lit from under us, as after two long summers of Covid-19 restrictions, we are finally free yet still feeling trapped. Inboxes are concerningly empty, job advertisements few and far between and our aspirations tainted by the phrase “relevant experience required”. We’re so tied to the idea of productivity that it has become far too powerful for our own good. Summer should be sea, sun and sand (or that’s what the movies tell us anyway), so should we spend the time stressing about our futures or do we deserve the break after a both physically and mentally exhausting academic year?

"We’re so tied to the idea of productivity that it has become far too powerful for our own good."

Since November, I’ve been searching far and wide for a summer internship programme, work experience or anything that’s even slightly relevant to my career aspirations – paid or unpaid. Having missed out last summer, I was desperate for something this summer. Almost five months on and I’ve yet to apply for a single job, not received any responses to my helpless pleas nor have I stumbled across an internship that has either piqued my interest or sounded as though I'd fit the mould for. 

If I’d written this article two weeks ago it would have been under a whole different set of circumstances and mindset as I was frustrated, confused and concerned about how it would affect my future if I “threw away” yet another summer. None of this was helped either by the fact that one of my best friends has had her 2022 summer internship confirmed since July 2021 and almost everyone around me has been offered placements and amazing opportunities whilst my summer itinerary is still very much in the air. However, I have since taken a step back to look at the bigger picture. I still have two more years left at university, I’m constantly subconsciously gaining life experience and knowledge, and having spent the year abroad, away from friends and family, it’ll be a relief to have some familiarity again. This is not to say that if an opportunity presents itself I won’t dive in, but I’m not putting the same pressure on to spread myself thin and do any random thing just for the sake of my CV. If I get a job, internship or work experience this summer, I want it to be beneficial to me and wholly relevant to what I want to do.

"If I get a job, internship or work experience this summer, I want it to be beneficial to me and wholly relevant to what I want to do."

Then there’s the other side of my thoughts. The side that screams how expensive rent is in the West End alongside rising living costs, more generally. At the moment, it’s likely I’ll return to my casual lifeguard job, picking up whatever shifts I can get and commuting an hour to and from work. Ideal? Absolutely not, but will it give me peace of mind knowing that I’m going to be a bit more financially independent? Yes, and that is what’s important to me. Whilst a standard summer job might not sound the most appealing, it’s still work experience. You get the opportunity to meet new people, learn some new skills, practice your communication skills and work with others – all of which employers look for in job applications. Even if it’s only a couple of days a week, you’ve earned the summer holiday, enjoy it while you can. 

I have so many other things that I would love to accomplish this summer. Some of these are realistically unattainable, however, the majority are small things that spark excitement, whether that be club swimming again and coaching poolside, travelling or spending time with family, who I’ve hardly seen since the pandemic began. I think the most important takeaway from this is that no matter how you choose to spend your summer, ensure that you have time to do things that make you happy and that you want to do. We may be drowning in a sea of summer pressures and burying our heads in the sand, but we are free at last to relax and celebrate how far we’ve come over the past year rather than focusing only on how far we’ve still got to go.


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