Taking Advantage of Free Time in Summer

By Alex Shoucair

Well summer time is right around the corner, and while many people already have solid plans for their summer, a lot of us don’t. Not having any classes makes it easy to get lazy, and before you know it… September has arrived, and your entire summer is gone. A key lesson that I wish I had had instilled in me early on was the value in maximizing every aspect of the summer, not just to relax, but to also advance my educational and career goals.

With that in mind, there are a few things that both upper and lower classman should keep in mind before heading into the summer. While there are no hard and fast rules about what makes for a “good summer,” there are definitely a few different avenues that can help you fully capitalize on all of the opportunities the summer months can provide.

These are a few main points to keep in mind.

If you can, find a field-contextual job or internship.

Yes, this is always easier said than done. And seeing as it is already May, if you haven’t found a job or internship already you will probably have a difficult time finding one now. Nevertheless, as you approach the end of your college tenure, it is vital to use any and all opportunities you can to gain valuable work experience. It is this kind of work experience that can help set you apart when you enter the job in the near future. Anything that can help to set you apart from your peers when you’re going for that dream job right out of school is absolutely worth sacrificing a few lazy months for. Of course, on top of that, finding a great job or internship is a great way to have fun and involve yourself in the professional field you’re most interested in. It’s a win-win from every angle.

Keep up your foreign language!

I’ve personally found this to be one of the more challenging aspects of the summer months. For anyone studying a foreign language (and most of us in the Elliott School are), those few months of no classes in the summer can really do serious damage to language progress. There are a few ways to tackle the problem though: if you’re staying in D.C. over the summer, the city itself offers a number of opportunities to use your language skills with other speakers. A city with the diversity (and number of universities and colleges) of D.C. enables you to find others with which to practice your language in the summer months, giving you the chance to at least moderately stem the inevitable regression of your language in the absence of classes. Another option to is simply continue taking classes throughout the summer.

If you’re in D.C., GW obviously gives you the ability to keep taking classes to enhance your language skills. But if you go home, check out any local universities or colleges that might offer classes in your language. If you think you can pull it off, traveling to country/countries where your foreign language is spoken is perhaps the best way to practice your language. Bottom line: engaging in even a little bit of practice over the summer can help to keep you a step ahead of your peers when you get going again in the fall.


Study for graduate exams.

If you’re an upperclassman, the summer months provide no better opportunity than to brush up on the GRE, LSAT, GMAT, MCAT, or whatever standardized test you might need before applying to grad schools. The abundance of extra time most people have in the summer makes for the perfect chance to get yourself ready to take that oh-so-critical exam that you’ll need to take the next step up to grad school.

These are just a few of many options available to students to utilize the summer in a way that advances your goals. Taking classes to kill those dreaded GCR’s, doing non-profit work, conducting field-contextual reading, writing, and research, along with a whole host of other opportunities ensure that no student has an excuse to let their summer slip away. Just don’t get to the end of your summer and look back and wonder what, if anything, you did that was at all productive.

The summer is one of the best ways to distinguish yourself from your peers, and prepare you for your post-GW life….don’t let it go to waste!


Alex is a junior majoring in International Affairs and Asian Studies.  He has studied abroad in Beijing, China, and hopes to continue studying East Asian relations in graduate school.

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