What can I do in the first summer of my degree?

There are often limited internship opportunities for first year students, so what else can you do with your long summer holiday to help you in your STEM career? Some suggestions are listed below, and don’t forget to check out the database! This advice is also valid for students in later years who aren’t planning on completing an internship this summer.

Summer Courses

Although you usually hear of summer courses for pre-university students, there are also some available for current university students. There are a range of different types, from opportunities to assist scientists with their research to taking courses in non-STEM disciplines such as business or languages. Although you may be considering the PhD path, don’t completely rule out opportunities to develop other skills too – particularly if you can get a scholarship or your university has an exchange program set up.

Watch out for expenses though – particularly for any summer courses abroad. Some of these courses (don’t worry – not all!)¬†are run by profit-making organisations or even universities hoping to make some extra cash, and may not offer the best value for money. That being said, if you’re willing to splash out or can persuade your university to offer you a travel/ study grant then look into these options too – they may be able to offer unique courses or highly tailored study programs.

Once you’ve completed your summer program, don’t forget to get in touch to give us your feedback – you could be featured in a previous participant’s quote in the database or write a guest blog post!

Volunteering

Voluntary work is a great way to get some work experience for your CV, and is available in a wide range of fields. Your university may run outreach events over the summer which they require volunteers (or paid student helpers) for, or you could look into external organisations such as the British Science Association and charities.

Again, there are also expensive volunteer abroad programs available, and particularly watch out for ‘voluntourism’ projects. If you are planning to volunteer abroad make sure you look into what impact the organisation is having on the local community and think about what unique skills you can personally bring to the project. These can be incredibly rewarding, but I would advise talking to previous volunteers or going through a university-organised program rather than booking the one online with the best travel photos.

Working

For most students, the summer holiday is an important time to earn some extra cash/ pay off the overdraft – and don’t forget the CV benefits of having a summer job! There are so many potential jobs available, from standard retail work and restaurant jobs to working as an outdoor activity assistant. If you are unable to secure a full-time position don’t worry – consider putting your studies to good use by tutoring A level students for some extra cash.

Travelling

The second summer of your degree could be filled with a long internship, and after third year you’ll probably be graduating – so this may very well be the last free summer of your life! Take the opportunity to travel – inter-rail around Europe, backpack around South East Asia, do Camp America… Whatever your dream travel destination go for it! Travelling can also demonstrate to employers that you are internationally minded, organised, adventurous and have language skills.

Worried about travel costs? Consider au pairing, teaching English abroad or getting a resort job to pay your way around your journey. Some universities will offer travel grants to students to help fund their travels – make sure you look into these early as they may have deadlines long before the summer comes round. You could also combine travel with any of the ideas above – e.g. work in a local restaurant to earn some cash before your holiday, or simply do the same job abroad! Particularly for European students it is very easy to travel and work around Europe, so make the most of it!

MOOCs

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a great way to prepare for the next academic year. They are offered by universities worldwide and generally consist of a series of video lectures and quizes. Some MOOCs offer the opportunity to obtain a verified certificate for an additional fee, but you can also just audit most courses for free. If you are unsure about which modules to pick next year, want to get a headstart on your peers, or want an additional certificate to add to your CV these are a fantastic opportunity. Check out our article all about MOOCs here!

Learn to Code

For many STEM careers or your further studies, learning to code will really make you stand out from the crowd. Coding is increasingly being used in STEM fields, for example for data analysis, and there are loads of opportunities to teach yourself from home, many for free! It will require commitment and dedication, but if you’re prepared to set aside a decent amount of time each week to work towards your goal you could be reasonably proficient by the end of the summer. There are far too many online course providers to list here, but check out this article from Inc.com for some suggestions.

 

If you have any more ideas, comment below or get in touch!

Kate Prescott

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