While university holidays are often a welcome break from the stresses of essays and labs, sometimes they are just a little too long. It can be difficult to find something fun and productive to fill this almost unnecessarily long vacation period, and even if you do manage to find a job, internship or travel destination, it’s tough to find the right balance between work and play. Here are some ideas to help you decide how to spend your next university holiday:
A holiday might be top of many students’ holiday priority lists, but sadly a trip abroad isn’t exactly cheap. Over the summer holiday, I compromised by saving money from my summer job to pay for a holiday, which I found to be a good balance between keeping busy, earning money and having fun! You could also try scouring the Internet for cheap deals; if you search hard enough, there are some very cheap flights available if you’re willing to put in the work to find them.
Alternatively, you could follow advice from Katherine, a third-year History student, who found a great way of travelling: ‘last summer I took full advantage of having international friends! I spent a week in Germany and in Spain getting to see where my friends grew up. When you stay with natives of the country, it is so much easier to experience the local culture and food. You can stray off the tourist trail and find the truly special gems.’
A great way of combining a desire to travel with a longing to do something worthwhile with your vacation period is to volunteer abroad, also known as ‘voluntourism’. As a Durham student, you have the perfect opportunity right on your doorstep: DUCK. Paige, a third-year Education and English student, decided to volunteer in Romania in conjunction with DUCK and FutureSense Foundation this summer. Paige volunteered at an orphanage, spending her time teaching the children and renovating their housing, interspersed with visiting local sites of interest. She heartily recommends her experience, saying that ‘you not only get to help people and meet people that you otherwise would never have met, but you do also leave a lasting impression on the community. I want to be a teacher, so I decided to take part in the expedition primarily to work with children over the summer, as well as to do something worthwhile. Both the summer camp and the renovations were tiring in very different ways, but were very rewarding too.’
If you’re looking to volunteer without going so far away, it might be worth asking at local charity shops, food banks or local shelters. They’re often in need of a helping hand and the experience can change your perspective, giving you an insight into the lives of others.
Whether you’re looking for a part-time holiday job on the high street, a two-week placement at a top company in London or something in between, it’s bound to be a welcome addition to anyone’s CV. Don’t be disheartened if you can’t find seasonal work at first; try looking for work at places that might be busier in holiday periods. I’ve worked at a theme park for the past two summers as they are often looking for new staff during their peak periods. It can be hard work, but it’s worth it for the experience and an extra boost to next year’s student loan. If you live somewhere with little seasonal or temporary work available, why not try Durham? If you’re renting in Durham over the holidays, it’s a good opportunity to make the most of your house while you’re paying for it! Durham University’s Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre always has an extensive listing of relevant local job openings, which is definitely worth a look.
You might also want to look for experience relevant to your future plans. However, if your future plans are still quite vague, the holiday period is a good time to try out a couple of different fields of work. Katherine wants to work in the media, so she managed to find some relevant work experience; she explains why she found it valuable: ‘I spent three weeks at BBC World Service where I was a producer on the programme Newshour. I had to respond to breaking news stories and find interviewees for the programme. On another occasion, I got the chance to commentate on the World Orienteering Championships for the orienteering governing body. I hope these experiences will give me the edge when I’m looking for a job.’
Sometimes it can be tempting to spend the entire vacation period enjoying lie-ins, lazing in front of the computer and binge-watching the latest drama series. However, after a month or so, even procrastinating can lose its allure; it’s worth taking a look at vacation opportunities available before term finishes if you can. You’ll be able to find something worthwhile to do with your long holidays while still finding time to watch a couple of box sets, of course.