Oberlin Blogs

How to Use Your Summer Vacation

June 14, 2011

Tess Yanisch ’13

Summer vacation means many things to a college student. There's a lot of time in the long, warm, sun-drenched months of June, July, and August, and more ways to spend it than any one person can possibly attempt. Here are some of the main uses people seem to make of their time and what I'm doing this summer.

1. Make money. I'm not being mercenary or grasping in choosing to list this first; it's important. College tuition is rising and incomes are shrinking. This gap is too big to be closed without loans and parental help, obviously--the days in which dedicated people could put themselves through college are probably over for good. Still, summer break is the best time to take a chunk out of one's tuition.

If we're lucky, college students have choices in how to earn our tuition money. Paid internships are generally considered to be the "best" kind of summer job, as you get career experience and money, but you have to be careful. A lot of internships pay decent wages, but do not provide food or housing, and paying for those can eat up most or all of what you earn. This might be worth it for the opportunity, but you'll have to weigh your choice carefully. Emma, my roommate, has an internship at WSU, which means she's in the same state as me, albeit on the other side of the mountains.

Another option is to work on-campus. I have a few friends doing this now. Certain kinds of jobs (ones officially through the college, like being a research assistant) provide on-campus housing, at least if you act reasonably quickly to claim it. This year, I think it's all in the coveted Union Street houses, which Guy says are very nice. I have heard that if you work for ResEd, your room and board are free, though I can't verify this myself. I'm sure there are other jobs available in Oberlin proper--the pool is always short-staffed in summer--but those would probably not guarantee you housing.

If your attempts at academic work fall through, you're in the great summer workforce pool, working part-time or hustling up odd jobs (like I did last summer). This summer, I have been lucky enough to secure employment as a babysitter/nanny for two wonderful kids aged eleven and nine. The older girl is in Blake's class, which is how we know the family (younger siblings are a boon this way); her sister is in third grade. Those are both good ages and the girls are smart, funny, and energetic; I think we'll all have a lot of fun this summer. It's a great gig and everyone benefits: parents, kids, and me.

Because of the nannying, I'll effectively be working full-time for the month of August and for half of July; I've already been babysitting after school. They're on a family vacation for part of July, during which all I have to do is house-sit, which gives me time to scrounge up odd jobs as well. There's also time for that on weekends or in the late afternoons and evenings, because I'll be working fairly regular hours. However, those times are also essential for another element of summer break.

2. Explore new interests. I don't know about anyone else, but I have been doing this with a vengeance. I bought a gorgeous pair of red velvet poi with silk tails (pictures of them in action will come soon). I'm planning to buy a guitar--something I've been considering for a long time. I've played countless games of Boggle--a word game--with my mom and even defeated her once (a huge and unbelievable accomplishment). And, of course, I have a long list of movies I need to see and an even longer one of books to read.

3. Read like a crazy person. I've made more progress with the books than the movies. So far this summer, I've read:

  • Hyperspace by Michio Kako, a book about higher-dimensional physics, how the field was discovered/developed, and why it makes sense to have unseen dimensions to explain everything from gravity to positrons.
  • The entire Hunger Games trilogy (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay) by Suzanne Collins. The first is by far my favorite.
  • A British book called Let's Kill Uncle, which defies categorization.
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma, which Guy first recommended to me over a year ago, and which I found extremely interesting. Once I am living on my own and in charge of my food supply (in grad school, perhaps) I will buy from local markets as much as possible, especially for meat. Of course, in grad school, I probably won't be able to afford meat very often, especially if I'm buying local produce, but still.
  • The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders, half graphic novel, half photojournalism essay, written by the photographer in question and his friend. It recounts his adventures in Afghanistan in the 1980s with MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres, the original Doctors Without Borders).
  • A collection of short stories by O. Henry. I love snapper endings.

4. Relax. I've spent a lot of time reading in the sun on the deck or going for walks around the golf course, which has a trail overlooking Puget Sound. I've also gone to several of Blake's baseball games. He's been playing since he was six or seven (very low-pressure, just-for-fun teams at that point, of course. In his first game, he bunted, and the coaches and parents all looked at each other, totally taken by surprise and asking, "Can he do that?" Later in the season, someone hit a ball and took off for third instead of first). He and his friends have a really good team vibe. It's probably the most cohesive team I've seen. They're nearly always teasing, encouraging, or congratulating each other. It's fun to watch.

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