Intellectual Things to do During the Break

By Tianyang Zheng

YAY! Summer break is here! Looking for ways to stay involved, connected, and safe? As an incoming graduate student at Penn's Graduate School of Education, I am looking forward to spending this summer relaxing, recharging, and preparing for new beginnings! Here are some activities you can engage in.

Looking out into a blue ocean from a beach
  • Volunteer (online)
    No matter the time, volunteering is always fun! Not only can you contribute to the local/international community in a meaningful way, but you can also connect with like-minded individuals and make new friends. Volunteer experiences can be a great way to develop and advance your interests and skills toward your future career goals. For instance, United Nations Volunteers (UNV) is a great program where you can apply to volunteer remotely for different positions. You can work on graphic design, project proposals, translation, etc. I am currently volunteering with a non-profit organization that helps enhance educational opportunities for children. Within our team, I help with the fundraising proposal and ultimately come up with fundraising ideas alongside other volunteers. Furthermore, you can also contact local volunteer programs for opportunities you are interested in.
  • Read, read, read 
    I have found that summer is a great time to read the books I did not have time to read during the semester! A good book can really make your summer better! Goodreads is a great place to discover both new and old books by many of your favorite and soon-to-be favorite authors! Goodreads also has reviews by people who have read the books you may be interested in! Reading books has always been a way for me to relax and escape by immersing myself in many different (oftentimes) magical worlds.
  • Bonjour, shall we learn a new language?
    Summer break is also a great time to learn and/or brush up on a language! To begin, I recommend using apps such as Duolingo and Memrise. I am currently learning French, and I find that using apps like these to be effective and engaging! In these two apps, you can choose the language(s) you are interested in learning/improving and follow the exercises to practice. You can also set reminder notifications to practice regularly. If you need to take a break from studying, you may also pause the notifications. You can also learn through language textbooks and dictionaries too. I find that having a consistent (but flexible) schedule for when I plan to study is useful in tracking my learning progress. 

    I have also realized that it is important to immerse yourself in the language(s) you want to learn. When I am learning a new language, for instance, I like to consume content in that language. I find that listening to songs of that language as well as watching movies and TV shows (with the subtitles of your preference) and vice versa helpful! Current students have access to different streaming collections (e.g. Kanopy) from Penn Libraries, where many movies, TV shows, and documentaries can be streamed online. You can also connect (virtually) with people who speak the language you want to learn through language exchange programs! This is great because not only do you learn a new language, but you are also making friends along the way. Through language exchange programs (e.g. Language Chats from the Graduate Student Center during the semester), you may also have an opportunity to teach a language you know, gaining teaching experiences in the process!  
  • Take online course(s)
    Do you want to learn how to code? Are you interested in design? Many universities are offering free online courses from different areas of expertise right now! I recommend checking them out via websites such as Coursera and edX. Current Penn students can also take courses through LinkedIn Learning. After completing a course, you may also be eligible to receive a certificate. It is a win-win situation! Furthermore, current students may also choose to enroll in summer course(s) to earn credits towards graduation. 
  • Catch some zzz’s (because sleep is important)
    Summer is also, finally, an important time to take a break! It’s necessary to reflect on your past achievements and pat yourself on the back! Make sure to take a rest and catch up on all the sleep you missed during the semester! You have worked hard, and you deserve the break. 
  • Prepare for the new semester
    Finally, the summer break is a great time to prepare for the upcoming semester! As an incoming graduate student, I am really excited to join the graduate community at Penn in the fall! To prepare, I recommend going over this checklist from the Graduate Student Center to check all the things you need to complete before the upcoming semester. Make sure to include the logistics such as course registration, finding housing, etc, before beginning the new school year.

There are so many cool ways you can spend your summer. Regardless of how you spend it, I hope your summer is filled with fun, sunshine, and well, lots of good vibes.


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