Most college students are lucky enough to have three or four glorious months off each year for the duration of their degrees. While it's common for students to pick up part time work over the summer months in their locality at home, these precious months are also a prime time to try out a variety of experiences both at home and abroad.
Don’t forget that it can sometimes be the non-academic details on your CV like au pairing for three months in Alicante, working in Lego Land on the west coast of America or teaching water sports in an Irish college that can be great talking points in interviews down the road!
In my experience, many employers look at your non-academic achievements and experiences to get a good sense of your overall character. Plus, the following suggestions will allow you to meet new people, discover foreign cultures and learn a lot about yourself along the way…
1. Au Pairing
Studying a language in college or want to learn a new language abroad? There’s no better way to learn or improve your foreign language skills than truly immersing yourself in another country with a native family.
Kids tend to use simple words and talk slowly when speaking their own language, so they actually make it somewhat easier for you to improve your language skills while you spend time taking care of them.
While it can vary between families, au pairs are generally asked to work 5 days a week and get evenings and weekends off. Weekends off allow au pairs to explore their local area, meet up with other au pairs and locals or travel to other regions within the country.
I au paired for a family in Italy during one of my summer breaks in college. I really improved my spoken Italian and enjoyed learning about Italian culture. The family treated me as one of their own and I’m still in regular contact with them!
For more info check out:
2. Work and travel with a J1 Visa
Some say that going on a J1 is a rite of passage that every student should experience at least once in their life. While it’s not for everyone, many students apply for the visa every year.
The J1 Summer Work Program Visa typically provides individuals with the opportunity to work in a foreign country for the summer period. Students get to experience living and working in a new environment. If they don’t go too mad in their first few weeks and manage their money well, students often spend a few weeks travelling towards the end of their stay. America and Canada have without a doubt become the most popular J1 destination choices in recent years amongst Irish students.
For more info check out:
Workaway offers individuals the opportunity to work with a host family, organisation, company etc. for a period of time. If there is an area that you have a specific interest in (carpentry, social media marketing, IT, painting etc.) there are numerous opportunities to work in these areas. Alternatively, if you want to try your hand at something completely new, Workaway is also a good shout!
Workers are typically given food and board in place of payment for their work (payment is only provided by some hosts) and the hours can vary depending on the person/group you are working for.
Many individuals use Workaway to experience new cultures and to work alongside people from a range of countries. Shorter hours and free weekends allow you to explore the area you’re working in and do a bit of travelling too.
For more info check out:
4. Teach English Abroad with TEFL
Love the idea of teaching English while living abroad? Why not get your TEFL certification and be gone! The TEFL certification makes it a bit easier to find jobs as you will be considered a well-qualified candidate with the TEFL certification under your belt.
Fancy exploring some of the best spots in Europe this summer? Try interrailing! Visit Lake Bled in Slovenia, Paris, Amsterdam - the list of amazing European destinations is endless!
More of a homebird or low on funds?
If you are uncomfortable with the idea of travelling too far afield over the summer months, or you simply don’t have the funds to do so this year, there are plenty of other options closer to home that you can consider:
6. Put your Irish to good use
Are you an Irish language lover and an adventure sports enthusiast? You might want to consider some of the jobs available in Irish Colleges around the country. College’s such as Coláiste UISCE place a large emphasis on water and adventure sports as part of their summer programs and are often on the hunt for teachers in these areas.
For more info, check out:
7. Volunteer with local organisations
It’s easy to overlook the impressive variety of local organisations that offer so much support and entertainment to many communities around the country. If you find yourself spending the summer months at home, why not get in contact with some of these organisations to see if they could use your help with events or festivals they may be running over the summer months. Jobs you might find yourself involved in may include a variety of administrative tasks, event planning, promotions and much more! When I spent a summer at home in Kilkenny during college, I volunteered for the Kilkenny Arts Festival. I was given a range of tasks to carry out everyday and met lots of really interesting artists and musicians.
If you’re a big festival head and over 18, Electric Picnic and Ireland’s newest festival All Together Now are always looking for volunteers! Keep an eye on their websites and social media pages for more info.
All Together Now:
8. Learn a musical instrument
Not taking the time to learn a musical instrument is a pretty common regret among a lot of people. So if you have a little free time this summer why not try learn an instrument.
Don’t have an instrument of your own? Ask family, friends or neighbours if they have one that you might be able to borrow for a few weeks over the summer.
Music lessons too expensive? If you find that music lessons are out of your budget, there are tons of really good video tutorials on YouTube that are a perfect place to start your musical journey.
Summer is a time to try out new things or explore and gain more experience in areas you already have an interest in. So what are you waiting for... Start planning your summer now!
If you've spent your summers doing something that you feel other students would be interested in, feel free to mention it in the comment section below.