What are you doing this summer?

Summer is here!! Wooo!!! I hope you all got through finals with at least a shred of your sanity still intact :). Now comes the big question! What are you doing this summer?! …Okay, okay, that question isn’t totally innocent. I’m not necessarily referring to your vacation plans this summer (although if you’re doing something awesome, then YAY for you!). What I mean is, what are you doing this summer to keep your academic edge?

We all know that summer is just awesome. Three months stretch out before you with endless possibility… Summer is the great and terrible pinnacle of laziness. I’m not judging, I’m some summer laziness as we speak. However, I hope I can persuade you to interject some intellectual exercise into your monotony of summer fun.

It’s true that all work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy (and apparently a psychopathic killer) <– If you’re not getting my joke, you need to walk away from this blog right now and go watch The Shining.

But I digress, all fun and no work can be pretty boring too. It might seem like an oxymoron, fun=boring (?!?) but you know it’s a little bit true.

In this blog post, I wanted to just suggest a few activities that you might take up over the summer to keep your academic edge! What’s an academic edge? You know when you first start the new semester and the first couple of weeks you’re kinda rusty? Maybe you feel like you can’t write as well, you forgot how to start an essay, you are having a hard time motivating, or you just feel like you forgot a bunch of stuff that suddenly seems critical. That’s losing your academic edge.

It’s not the end of the world to feel a little rusty at the beginning of a semester, as you get going you get your school-groove back, but I want to help you stay a little more intellectually fresh this summer! Here’s how:

If you are following advice in the previous post Summer: Take the Classes You Hate, then good for you! You are going to be taking some dreaded subjects in summer session and you probably don’t need to do anything else but relax and have fun. Afterall, I just want you to make it out of community college, not ruin all your free time :).

If you aren’t taking a summer session I still have 10 suggestions for easy and dare I say, fun, ways to keep your mind in gear.

1. Read Some Books! Read something! Anything! Reading will activate your brain and keep your vocabulary sharp! By reading new words in the context of a book or a story, you learn new vocabulary naturally.

Alternatives:

A. Spend the day in Barnes & Noble. If you think you’re “not a reader” or you don’t normally read and aren’t sure what you would like, this is a great way to test the waters. Go to Barnes & Noble or your local bookstore and browse around. Grab a coffee and leaf through some books in each section. If you are new to reading, I suggest mystery suspence or young adult fiction (don’t be shy, I totally read young adult!)

B. Read a classic novel. Have you always wanted to read one of the classics? Maybe you’re a tiny bit curious? Maybe you just want to be able to say that you did? Great! Read a classic novel! Yes, the words will be weird, its won’t be as fast paced as the fiction we see today, but it’s not a classic because its sucks. It’s a classic because that piece of literature wholly embodies an experience that is classic, timeless, and undying. A story which perseveres through decades and continues to resonate with readers even 100 or more years after its publication. It’s pretty cool when you think about it.

C. Join a book club. There are both in-person and online book clubs! It’s a great way to incorporate social networking/media with reading. Love the book? Gush about how ah-may-zing the book was. Hated it? Hash out all the points you hated. Guess what? You just gained a deeper understanding of literature :).

2. Watch Some Documentaries. Do you absolutely hate reading? You just know that you are NOT going to read. Period. That’s ok! Check out some documentaries! It’s a movie, and you learn stuff!! Perfect!

3. Start Your Own blog or Journal. Do you have a special interest? Start a blog! Food, sports, fashion, advice, live journal, the topics are endless. I obviously run this blog but I also write a personal blog about being a vegan. My fiancée is starting a video game blog. Your academic writing skills will improve just by the practice of writing about topics you enjoy!

Alternative:

A. Not interested in blogging? Start a journal. You don’t have to reveal the darkest secrets of your heart, just keep a log of your summer. After all, you only live once, why not document the best moments of your life?

4. Get an Internship or Volunteer. This is not only a great way to stay mentally sharp but it’s a great resume builder as well! Boom!! Check out idealist.org or go directly to the websites of organizations you’re interested in.

5. Go to Free Rice or Khan Academy. These are both awesome websites! Free Rice is a vocabulary quizzer and for every correct answer, Free Rice donates 10 grains of rice to the World Food Programme to end world hunger. It’s pretty amazing, Improve Your Vocabulary + Feed Starving People = Win. It’s something you can pick up anytime, play for five minutes or five hours. Play while you surf the internet or check email. Go now!

Alternative:

A. Khan Academy I just found out about tonight. I was talking to a friend of mine about this blog asking for her thoughts about what she does to stay sharp, and she told me about Khan Academy. Having just discovered it, I’m no expert but it’s a pretty cool site that has tons of videos on various topics to help you study and learn new subjects!

6. Watch The News. Or listen to the news on the radio. Or read the newspaper. Or read a news magazine. Stay informed on current events, you will gain a deeper understanding of the world we’re living in. Plus, current events always come up in conversation, it’s a great way to meet to people and avoid  long and awkward silences ;).

7. Take a Class for Fun. Yes, you heard me. There are classes out there that are fun! Remember that blog? What’s you’re special interest? There are classes in everything nowadays, find what you’re interested in and take a class!

Alternatives:

A. Prepare for an Upcoming Class. Do you know you’re going to be taking a super hard class in the coming semester? A subject that you struggle in? It might not hurt (it definitely won’t hurt) to go to Barnes & Noble and get a guide on the subject and page through it over the summer, think “_______ For Dummies”. You don’t have to be pouring hours into self teaching, just take a look at the material so when you walk into the class you will have seen some of it before. A little less foreign, a little less intimidating, a little more likely to succeed.

B. Take a Foreign Language. Want to learn to speak to your great-grandmother in Germany? Impress your hot date by ordering your chinese food in Mandarin? Learn how to write right to left in Arabic? Take a foreign language class! It’s fun and you learn a skill that you can REALLY use! You wouldn’t believe how much you learn about English grammar, sentence structure, and linguistics by learning a foreign language.

8. Get something published. It’s not a crazy idea. Do you have a piece of writing that you’re especially proud of? Or do you want to write about a topic you feel especially passionate about and want to get your views out to the world? Consider looking into getting published. Read similar publications to try to get an idea of where your essay would best fit. Ask your professors and mentors. Get some leads! Revise! Submit!

9. Go to a museum (art, science, or natural history). Go learn some stuff! Take some friends, take a date. It’s a fun and interesting way to spend the day. Like art? Go to an art show, gallery, modern or classic art museum. Science nut? Check out a hands on science museum, get your hands on some stuff and have some fun! Love you some dinosaurs? Natural history museum. Stat. My fiancée and I have tickets to a Pinball Museum. Yeah, they’ve got museums for everything.

Alternative:

A. Take a Tour. Pretend you’re a tourist in your own town and take a tour. Get on Groupon or something and get some discounted tickets for a walking tour or sightseeing. You never know what you’ll learn or what you’ll find. A few years ago we were on vacation in London and on a whim, took a “Jack the Ripper Walking Tour”. Best tour I’ve ever been on in my life. Ever. You never know what you’re missing.

10. Debate or Discussions with Friends. Hopefully you find some of these suggestions at least mildly interesting :), and if you do, get your friends to participate with you! Then double the impact and discuss or debate what you’re learning with your friends.

Whether you take these suggestions or not, I wish you the most fabulous, sun-filled, sexy, fun, exciting, productive summer. Don’t forget to check back in to GradGuru from time to time as I’ll still be blogging, reminding you of important upcoming dates and helping you plan your fall semester.

So after all that, I want to hear your comments! What are you planning for this summer? What are you doing for fun? What are you doing to stave off intellectual boredom? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Special Thanks to my friends and fellow Community College, College, and Graduate School Graduates. This list was not just my own, it was crafted from experience from all of us.

Sylvia Husk, Maru Salazar, Danielle Alm, Laura Flynn, Veronica Beaty, Beki McElvain & Audra Cavaras.

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