This week is referenced by perhaps the two greatest words in the college students' vocabulary. Do you know what they are?
I would have also accepted, "Open Book," "Multiple Choice," "Class Cancelled," or "I'm not going to set my alarm."
For working professionals such as myself, we refer to today as "Another Monday." But even so, there is a joy and gratitude in the air for the chance that spring break offers.
It is fitting that, this year, spring break began the same week as the season of Lent. The two seasons go hand-in-hand. Lent allows us to withdraw from the world and refocus our attention on Christ. Spring Break is an opportunity to withdraw--just for a little while--from the routine of academic life, while also being a time to recharge and refocus our attention on our personal, academic, and professional goals.
The point of the break is not to do nothing, but to pursue the fullness of your vocation and being in ways that may get left behind during the busy academic semester.
Here's some good ways to spend your break:
Read a book. The most successful people in the world typically have a reading list. Bill Gates is famous for reading 50 books a year (basically one per week), and it is a good practice to spend 30 minutes a day engaged in reading or learning about something new. Pick up a book related to your schoolwork, or better yet find a book on a professional topic that interests you. The more general knowledge you possess, the better off you will be.
Go outside. Sitting on the couch for a day is not necessarily the worst thing in the world, but take advantage of the spring weather and enjoy the outdoors. Consider having a picnic, going camping, playing sports, or doing yardwork. Fresh air can help you come back from the break feeling renewed and relaxed.
Connect with friends. Invite someone to lunch for a chance to catch up. (Re)connecting with friends is important not only to maintain your relationship, but to help it mature and grow as you spend these crucial years in formation at college. Don't be afraid to ask them deep questions, or learn what they plan to do with their life.
Watch good TV. That's right. Go ahead and finish up that show or start a new one. With so many networks and media streaming possibilities, the consumption and discussion of entertainment seems to become a bigger part of our cultural experience everyday. But the opportunities to see and discuss something meaningful, thought-provoking, or artistic seem rarer than ever. Find something worth watching, and be able to discuss it with friends. It helps you to be well-rounded and engage in the world around you.
And of course it's relaxing....
Catch up on current events. If you have not been keeping up with the news, now is the time to read through your favorite news sources, blogs, etc. Or if you are not typically given to reading the news, now is a great time to find and subscribe to top news outlets. Share your selections with your friends, and consider spending a set amount of time each day reading about what's happening in the world around you.
Journal. If this is not already a frequent practice for you, spring break is the chance to make it one. People who regularly synthesize their thoughts and reflections in the written form are vastly more creative, better communicators, better decision-makers, and have greater confidence. Journaling is a great way to start or end your day with focus, which is the goal of spring break. Here's a tip: buy yourself a nice bound notebook and a good pen, and you will actually look forward to journaling everyday.
Arrange informational interviews. This is the second-most valuable thing you can do in preparing for a career (apart from an internship). Reach out to people in your network (family, friends, professionals you know, colleagues of people in your network, etc.) for a quick chat about their career. Ask questions you have regarding that career, especially if this is a field you want to enter. Get their perspective on the job; don't ask questions for things you could find on the internet. Keep it personable, positive, and grateful. These people could be mentors in the near future, or could help you find that next job or internship. (But above all, don't ask "can you get me a internship this summer?" There's better ways to ask that question...)
Go shadow. Shadowing is a one-day or one-week experience to simply follow a professional around and observe what they do for their work. Take advantage of the time off to gain valuable first-hand exposure to the career you want. Ask around in your network, or find someone at a company nearby to you. Be sure to bring a pad to take notes, and talk with anyone you can while you're there (as long as you don't interrupt their work).
Listen to podcasts. There are some amazing podcasts out there which are informative, entertaining, and original. They're a great way to continue learning, and you can play them anywhere: in the car, in the gym, or on your way to class. Some of my personal favorites include Things You Missed In History Class, TED Radio Hour, and RadioLab. Find some that you appreciate and add them to your routine.
Exercise. Physical activity is obviously important for your health, but it's also important to improve your brain function, your immune system, your creativity, and your confidence. Getting some exercise over the break is a great way to prepare for the rest of the semester.
Sleep. Catching up on sleep is important. We're only beginning to understand the value of a regular sleep schedule, and all those late evenings and all-nighters certainly don't help your brain function, metabolism, or immune system. Take time to rest, get into good sleep habits, and learn how to avoid distractions or stress that will keep you up at night.
Apply to jobs and internships. All you juniors and seniors know you have to do this, right? The time to apply for jobs and internships is waaaay before this (many deadlines close by January-February), but use the free time to organize your applications, collect necessary materials, connect with recruiters, and set up interviews.
Some places even allow you to intern for the week. Keep that on your radar. If you're trying to convince businesses to set up a summer internship with you, offer to use the week as a trial for their summer program.
Volunteer. Do something nice for someone else. Spend some time at a local nursing home, visit those in a local prison, or volunteer your time at a homeless shelter. Give back to your local community through trash clean-ups, blood drives, or tutoring at the local grade school. The time off is a blessing, so what better way to use that extra time than to serve those in need?
Catch up on school. If you've fallen behind on your reading or have an impending deadline in the week or two after the break, get a jump on those assignments now. It will allow you to finish out the last half of the semester strongly, while also freeing up your time at school to focus on your diverse interests.
Conduct research. Whether at school or on your own, spring break presents a good chance to do some research on a topic related to your major or career. If you are at school, it may be worth asking your professor if there is some project you can research for him or her. If you are away, look into working with a college or high school back home, or perhaps in doing independent research on your own time.
Plan. There are only two months left in the semester, so know how you're going to spend the time once you get back. Become familiar with some time management tools or worksheets. Purchase a planner so you can see exactly where your time goes each week, and how you can use it best. Those who fail to prepare are preparing to fail.
With these tips and practices, you cannot fail to have a wonderful, fruitful Spring Break. Enjoy the well-deserved time off, and be sure to come see us when you return!