Are carefree student summers a thing of the past?

The pressure of making the most of college summers can often cloud student perspectives


Illustration by Isabelle Griffen

There’s a strange pressure hanging in the air to find ever more interesting and exotic adventures to embark upon during summertime. From volunteering for 3 months in India, to  J1’s or fancy internships, everyone is fighting to do something bigger and better than the last. With such a huge expanse of time gifted to us during our summers, students feel a need to fill it with achievements to put on a CV, as well as some things we somewhat enjoy.

It’s worth asking how many people truly and wholeheartedly love their plans for the summer. Perhaps it is in my head, but there seems to be a race that is never-ending and impossible to win. Everyone starts off in first year on the same level, and as you progress through college, the race begins. The race to cram in as many once-in-a-lifetime experiences as possible, the race to gain career experience to give you an edge, the race to travel as much as you can and see everything before the perceived doom of graduating and having to get a real, full-time job.

Having a degree is the norm today. In the past, simply having a degree demonstrated a level of ambition and commitment that employers wanted. These days, many go on to complete third-level education, and having a degree alone isn’t enough anymore. What you choose to do with your summer is now a key way to show employers what you’re made of.

This great pressure to have worthwhile summer plans, placed on students both by the world of work and by one another, can be stressful. Having barely starting back in college after last summer, I was already beginning to think about next summer. My head was spinning with plans for a year away and I began to think that it was all slightly ridiculous. Was it really necessary to think so deeply about it? Or would I be better off seeing what interests me closer to the time?

Trinity is a hive of opportunity for things to do in the summer, and the wider student community in Ireland also has a wealth of option. It seems that come September, the adverts for next summer begin almost immediately. With so many options added to perceived expectations, it seems easily forgotten that not all students are able to cover the expense of a J1 or 3 months abroad. It can be hugely expensive, and for many students it is just not feasible. The pressure may leave many students feeling left behind and disadvantaged.

Is it all a little much? Should I be thinking about the academic year ahead of me and the opportunities available now before I reach the expanse of summer? Being around people who seemingly have their lives so together and their summers already planned, has given me an impression that summer is somehow more important than the other eight or nine months of the year. But is it really?

Don’t get me wrong. I love the sense of adventure that summer offers in its endless possibilities. However, I feel that the carefree spirit and lightheartedness of the season may have been tarnished by the battle to appear as employable as possible. I am aware that summertime is perfect for big plans; all that time with no commitments is ideal. In reality, we all have a lot more time than we think we do.

There is merit in engaging with something you truly love during the summer months rather than striving to fill a CV. I will endeavor to inject honesty and fun into my own plans, and I hope that everyone does to some extent. We owe it to ourselves.