A 4-month summer holiday has to be one of the biggest perks of being a student. Tempting as it may be to curl up with Netflix and do the odd shift at your local shop for some quick cash, time off on this scale does not exist in the real world of work (or so I’m told), so make the most of it! There are so many ways in which you can really utilise your summer and I’ve written this post to highlight a couple of the things that I have chosen to do.
1st Year Summer – Camp America
I had always been interested in working at an American Summer camp and decided to make the dream a reality in the summer of my 1st year at University. I was hired by Camp Fernwood, an adorably picturesque haven tucked away in Poland, Maine. Some of you may have visions of the film ‘The Parent Trap’ and I can confirm that life at camp is just as crazy and fun as the movie suggests!
How: I started researching becoming a camp counsellor in October 2015 and chose the agency ‘Stars N Stripes, Summer Camp Staffing’. The agency was very helpful and efficient the whole way along the process and the fees they charged were considerably more reasonable than some of their competitors on the market. You can apply directly to camps, but I would recommend going through an agency because of the help and support they offer with all the boring paper work necessities, like your visa.
- Working as a counsellor gives you the opportunity to work whilst absorbing more vitamin D than is available all year round in the UK! It’s a massively rewarding process and a once in a life time opportunity to work and travel.
- Your living expenses are all covered whilst you’re at camp and you have very little opportunity to spend much, aside from on your days off. Whilst the pay is not incredible, because you spend so little there is plenty of opportunity to fund travel afterwards. I have always wanted to visit New York and was able to meet up with my Mum and Dad to explore the Big Apple for a couple of days. After a couple of purchases (including a new hand luggage sized suitcase to get it all home!) I still had some cash left over to boost my bank balance.
- It’s a great CV filler whilst not really feeling like work. You’ll learn new skills and further develop those you all ready have. You’ll have countless great answers for typical interview questions like ‘name a time you successfully overcame a challenging situation’.
- For me the pros certainly outweigh the cons, but here are a few things to keep in mind.
- As amazing as the experience is, it’s not for those simply seeking to make a lot of money in the summer to supplement your student loan. By the time you consider your flights, agency fees and visa costs, there’s not enough to keep you going for another year at university.
- You have to commit a considerable amount of your summer to camp. For instance, I was working from the 7th June – 12th August.
- The process can be long and expensive. Getting your visa is probably the biggest annoyance, from medical checks to embassy interviews it is a timely process, but with the help of your agency it should be fairly painless!
- Shop around before signing up to an agency – the fees each of them charge vary quite a lot and makes a huge difference to your final wage.
- Apply as early as possible. If its something that you’re really interested in doing apply in September or October if at all possible. This will give you plenty of time to sort out all the paperwork, making the whole process much less stressful.
2nd Year Summer – Interrailing
After an amazing summer in America in 2016 I was invited back to work another summer at Camp Fernwood. As much as I enjoyed camp life, interrailing around Europe was another experience on my bucket list, so Rory and I set about planning what was to be an amazing European adventure.
How: In order to fund the trip, we stayed in St. Andrews and continued to work at the restaurant where we work part-time during term time, picking up more shifts in the busy summer period. Four months leaves plenty of time to fit in getting a job to build up some cash, as well as, a number of weeks for travelling.
- It’s one of the cheapest ways to visit the sights of Europe. With the interrail pass you can whizz around the continent and tick off lots of the spots you’ve always wanted to visit.
- It’s so much more exciting than your average sun holiday. Interrailing gives you the opportunity to experience a variety of different cultures and decide on your favourites that you’d like to visit again in the future.
- I’ve talked a lot on my blog before about our interrailing adventures and have reviewed some of my favourite stops. If you’re seriously considering it for the summer have a wee read at some of my previous posts and definitely consider incorporating Lake Bled into your travels.
- Travelling is tiring. Don’t underestimate just how exhausting it is to travel every couple of days to a new city whilst living out of a rucksack. This point is especially true if you’re taking night trains! Try to be sensible and don’t attempt to visit every city in Europe in the space of a month.
- Be prepared to embrace the crazy. Interrailing is an amazing whirlwind way to see lots of Europe, but on a student budget you have to be prepared to make some compromises to afford a month of travelling. That being said, if you are a 5* holiday resort kind of princess, I challenge you to give it a go! The experience is definitely worth it and if you want to take your GHDs, as well as, a different outfit for just about every day, you can make it happen – trust me I’ve done it!
- Plan your route but don’t be tempted to over plan – you can snap up luxurious 4* hotels a couple of days in advance of your stay for the same price as hostels. Do book your accommodation for the first couple of nights, but consider paying a little bit extra for free cancellation to give yourself flexibility.
- Budget – do give yourself some kind of budget so you can enjoy your trip without stressing about making ends meet until the next the next instalment of your student loan comes in!
3rd Year Summer – Internship (hopefully!)
After two super exciting, travel packed summers, this year I’m currently applying to a host of different internship opportunities. I obviously haven’t completed this yet, but thought I’d share some of my experiences with the application process.
- Apply early – even though these opportunities are for the summer, some of the deadlines are as early as September. With these deadlines in mind, its crucial to browse the opportunities and apply to those that interest you early.
- Use all the help resources available to you. Should this be making use of your careers centre at university, or getting someone you trust to have a look at your CV and applications. One of the websites that I have found really useful is Bright Network. If you are eligible to be a part of it, I would highly recommend you make full use of it.