What to do if you’ve been swindled by the summer holidays
Mysterious inheritances from distant “uncles”, DMs from MLM accounts asking you to join their flat tummy tea sister squad, and Elizabeth Holmes have nothing on the biggest sham of all—the uni summer break.
On the surface, the break seems like a long leisurely sprawl of sun-drunk days lazing by the beach and hazy tipsy nights with your best pals. It’s the time to pot around the house in nothing but an oversized t-shirt, tinkering around with hobbies you had neglected during uni, or finally decluttering that exploding closet of yours. Maybe you’ll even pick up a new hobby. With three months of glorious freedom ahead, nothing can interrupt your endeavours to crochet a knit sweater, write a collection of poetry, or learn one of Mozart’s sonatas on piano?
But, if you ask any uni student what they got up to over the summer, the answer is nearly always, “Oh, I just worked.” Unless you’re the lucky beneficiary of daddy’s trust fund, the summer break for the vast majority of students is the prime time to heal our battered bank accounts, hoard enough funds to survive another academic year, or smash through a couple of Gen-Eds in Summer School.
The cleverly-engineered scam that is the summer break usually begins long before we’ve slammed the submit button on our last Inspera exam. For some, the illusion of a warm and deliciously idle vacation is shattered during the first round of internship applications. Others scramble to beg their boss for full-time hours during exam leave, or rush to Student Job Search, mass distributing their CVs as if they’re Shen Yun flyers.
There’s also another problem—so many of us simply lack the ability to relax. When our days off eventually roll around, we often drift around on autopilot like NPCs, scrolling apathetically through quick-firing dopamine doses on the internet to recover from the work week, and actively avoid the discomfort many of us feel when doing absolutely nothing.
So, what’s to blame? You could argue that we struggle to adequately unwind because our attention spans have been hijacked by social media algorithms, or being overstimulated by the sheer abundance of media that’s instantly available at our fingertips. None of us are strangers to multitasking, just take a walk to the Gen Lib and you’ll see tables of students looking at lecture slides on their laptop, with music blasting through their headphones, while simultaneously texting a friend on their phone.
You could point fingers at capitalism and blame its cultivation of a culture that fetishises productivity so that being constantly “busy” is seen as a marker of success. Alternatively, you could also theorise that it’s the rigid, unyielding structure of our education systems that have conditioned our brains to meet neverending deadlines, leaving us feeling frazzled when that structure is put on pause. Or, you could say that it’s got something to do with being in your twenties—a time in your life where you’re supposed to lay the foundation for your career, but still be wild and reckless enough to have crazy stories to tell at dinner parties when you’re forty.
No matter what hypothesis you’ve formed, the sad reality is that a lot of us start the academic year with a depleted battery. The good news is that not all is lost! It’s not all doom and gloom. There are steps you can take to avoid going down a path that will inevitably lead to burnout and poor mental health.
Although this advice is probably not Dawn-Freshwater
-endorsed, if you’re feeling exhausted from the summer holidays because you haven’t had the chance to catch a break, honestly just take the first week of university off. If you’re a first year student, maybe don’t. However, for those of us already familiar with the logistics of university life—lectures in the first week are usually just introductions or verbal regurgitations of the syllabus. It’s much more productive in the long run to begin the semester feeling rested, than forcing yourself to plunge straight from a full-time schedule into uni life.
If you’re the type to feel overwhelmed by looming deadlines. Or at the end of your degree and have noticed that your assignments, and their associated word counts, have almost doubled, taking the time to plan out your full year could make your workload feel more manageable. As cliché as it sounds, the simple act of creating a big picture of what your year truly does wonders in helping your future self know when to step on the gas, and equally important, when to take it off.
For those coming out of self-induced isolation, the beginning of the semester is also a great time to reconnect with people you didn’t get to catch-up with. Braving the trenches is difficult, but it’s less so if you’ve got great comrades by your side. Even better, get stuck into clubs to fill up the social cup and get stuck into a hobby you might’ve abandoned.
If you’re feeling nervous about attending a club event, it’s handy to remember that part of your uni fees goes towards funding club events, so may as well make the most out of your hard-earned money right? Also, you’re not that special. Everyone there, including the club execs, will be feeling just as awkward as you do.
The start of sem is perfect for enrolling in therapy or counselling, which anyone and everyone can benefit from in some way. Summer can often be a difficult time. Students often move back home, start new jobs, see extended family, or just begin to process what the hell happened in the previous year, which can bring up challenging repressed issues and feelings. A great thing is that counselling is free at uni, and ridiculously expensive at outside providers, so don’t be afraid to make use of this service specifically put in place to support your uni experience.
While many of us may have been scammed out of our hot girl summer, who says that you can’t thrive outside of December to February? After all, prioritising your wellbeing and getting in regular rest and relaxation, even if it’s imperfect and uncomfortable, is not seasonal.