Summer is the perfect time for students to take a breath, relax, travel or pursue career-related goals outside of school. Most of us look forward to those hot three months, enjoying sunshine and freedom, knowing that summer breaks won’t happen forever.
When the worst of the coronavirus hit the U.S. in March, we all hoped that by summer it would subside. While some states are slowly lifting bans and easing up on restrictions, medical professionals still maintain that the disease is not behind us, and we must continue to practice social distancing.
Unfortunately, that means a lot of canceled plans. Whether it’s postponed travel, an internship that’s no longer happening, the inability to earn money or just being unable to hang out with friends by the pool, it’s safe to say summer is not going to be what we imagined in January.
This leaves a lot of college students wondering how to make the most of this time. With our activities confined to the house or the grocery store, it’s hard to find the motivation to do anything when it seems there’s no end in sight.
As we come to terms with the fact that shelter in place is going to last longer than expected, many people are looking to fill their days with more than just lying on the couch (unless that’s what you want or need, then that’s perfectly fine too). If so where, and how, can you find some sense of normalcy during a summer that feels anything but?
Step One: Routine
Step one is creating some form of a daily routine. Many people think of a schedule and assume that they’re losing the freedom summer offers. They might think that if every day is planned the same, they’re all gonna feel the same. Those concerns are valid; however, many studies have shown that routines actually make us feel more in control and help us make room for things that are important to us.
Your routine could be extremely loose, only detailing when you’re going to wake up and when you’re going to go to bed, or much more rigid. What works for each person is going to be different.
I’m a huge planner, so I like everything to be organized from the minute I wake up until the minute I fall asleep. My sister, on the other hand, is almost the exact opposite. But while we’re both quarantined at home, we’ve found separate schedules that work for us. Hers involves a midday nap, mine includes going to bed earlier. Everything that we do within our “day” is unique, and our routines work for each of us as individuals.
Step Two: Substituting Activities
Step two is deciding what should be included in your daily or weekly schedules. I think the best way to approach our new normal is to remember what we wanted out of summer before everything changed. If you were traveling, were you hoping to learn more about a country’s history and culture, or just looking to relax? Maybe your goal was to earn and save money. Was your canceled internship part of a plan to advance your career? Whatever it is you wanted, you may still be able to find ways to get that experience from home.
I started by making a rough list of everything I wanted to accomplish by the end of the summer. As a writer, this included publications I wanted to pitch, virtual events I hoped to attend and an online (unpaid) internship I wanted to participate in.
Maybe your goals are not career-related, and that’s okay too. Maybe you want to spend more time with your family. Or maybe you’re working toward a fitness goal. Any and every goal is valid, you just need to be clear about your vision. Knowing what it is that you want to make time for will help make it easier to actually do those things.
I’ve been looking online for different substitute activities that can be completed at home. I compiled some recommendations below, but I’d also love to hear some of the practices everyone else is implementing into their summers. These next three months won’t look like anything we’ve seen before, but they’re sure to be a time we’ll never forget.
Physical activity has been really great for me while at home. It’s an opportunity to do something purely for myself, and to spend 30 minutes to an hour completely alone. Not to mention all the regular benefits of exercise. I’ve been trying to do three to four days of more intense activity mixed in with walks or hikes on days when I’m trying to take it a little easier.
If you want to add exercise into your summer routines, there are a lot of great resources. If you’re a fan of instructor-led classes and are bummed your favorite studio is closed, Nike Training Club is waiving its monthly charge and offering unlimited access to strength training, yoga classes, cardio sessions and more. Going for a walk, run or bike ride outdoors is another great way to burn some calories and get some fresh air.
I like to spend some portion of my days doing something productive. For me this usually means doing something to advance my career. While I don’t believe your professional life means everything, I’m super passionate about the work I hope to do, so I enjoy spending time working toward my goals. Still, scheduling in productivity doesn’t have to be professionally focused.
Maybe it’s cleaning, reading or another activity that can make you feel accomplished. It also doesn’t have to happen every day; just find whatever rhythm works for you. Skillshare offers hundreds of free classes for whatever your passion might be. You could also work on projects related to your professional aspirations, such as research, artistic activities or studying. This could be put into a portfolio to show employers later.
I’m a big believer in the power of rest. I think in order to do anything well, you have to make sure you’re charged. I don’t necessarily “schedule” time to relax, but I almost always leave the evenings free. Whether I’m watching a movie, reading or playing my guitar, I make time to do whatever I need that day.
Facetiming friends, playing online games or syncing up your computers to watch Netflix with people in other households can all be great ways to feel social and create something to look forward to.
Traveling will likely be one of the last things to “open up,” but there are still some fun activities you can try out from home. I have a friend who is still trying to enjoy her planned vacation by taking a week off from her responsibilities. She’ll be sleeping in later than usual and spending a few days trying out some new activities.
If you had plans to travel, you could make food and traditional dishes from the country you were planning on visiting, or you could order takeout from a local place that specializes in the cuisine. You could take virtual trips to Peru and Machu Pichu, or tour some of Europe’s most famous castles. Some people are even going for long drives just to experience some new scenery. You could spend a day driving an hour or two away from where you live to see if there are any sights you can experience safely from your car.
If earning money was your number one plan this summer, it can be devastating that so many industries are struggling right now. Maybe you were looking for part-time work, or you’re a recent grad looking to get going in your career. Luckily there are still some alternatives to try.
LinkedIn has created a great page full of companies that are still hiring. Virtual tutors for middle and high school students are needed (and parents who are juggling suddenly home-schooling their children and full-time work would probably be very appreciative). You could also sell services on websites like Fiverr or Upwork.