After nine or so months focusing primarily on next week’s big paper or that 15-page lab report due tomorrow morning, one may be somewhat at a loss with what to do with three months of “free time.” After looking at my calendar and realizing that my sophomore year will end in less than a month, I got to thinking about how I will spend my upcoming escape from the academic rigors that Columbia provides, or perhaps foists upon, us.
From a perspective of sensibility and utility, it makes sense to spend the summer doing something you find interesting rather than wasting it lounging at home or in a dead-end job carried over from high school. For many of us, this means working in a lab, interning at a magazine, traveling, or working on some “big project.” Those sorts of jobs are great because they provide practical experience or enjoyment while warding off the brain atrophy that typically occurs when the summer is spent staring at the ceiling.
If you do not yet have some idea of what your big goal for the summer is, now is the time to find one.
Even if you do have such a job or travel plans, you will still have plenty of opportunities to do things that would normally conflict with schoolwork. That being said, I’ve come up with some ways to have fun and expand your horizons at the same time this summer.
Whether you are an experienced gourmand or a culinary neophyte, it can never hurt to have new food experiences. One of the most rewarding ways to try new foods—especially in terms of gaining long-term benefits—is learning how to cook excellent food. Having free time when you are not too worried about school or work allows you to spend some time learning both basic and advanced kitchen techniques. Watch a Food Network show, skim a cookbook, or simply go online. Find something you like and throw a potluck dinner party—always a crowd-pleaser—with your friends.
On another equally pleasing note, while American football, baseball, and basketball are much more popular in the United States, the most prevalent sport in the world is what we Yanks call soccer. The biggest event in soccer is the World Cup—which is sort of like the World Series, the Super Bowl, and the NBA Finals—but more international, more valuable, and much crazier. So this summer, grab some friends and tune in to the FIFA World Cup to see the finest national teams compete against each other in the biggest sporting event of the year. Extra credit: If you thought Red Sox fans were bad, watch for some drunken European soccer hooligans after a big game.
If you’re staying in New York over the summer and have not been able to get out of Manhattan, check out some of the other boroughs. Activities range from the pseudo-intellectual—including the Bronx Zoo, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, or the New York Transit Museum—to the more neutral—such as the exploration of the more international neighborhoods of Brighton Beach or Jackson Heights. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can even leave New York City. Consider taking a long weekend. Pick up a copy of Weird NJ and go on a road trip tour of the Garden State. It is an experience guaranteed to leave you with memories, and probably quite a few nightmares to boot.
There are, however, some things you should do regardless of where you are in the world and what kind of work you are doing. Besides the usual keeping in touch with friends and such, one should use the opportunity of relatively large amounts of free time to actually get a decent amount of sleep, say six to 10 hours instead of the usual three to six hours interspersed with the occasional all-nighter.
Most importantly, just have fun with your summer! Once we leave college and enter the job market, most of us won’t have the chance to have three months of absolutely free time. These are the last chances you have to do something crazy—like taking a spontaneous vacation to Peru or fashion blogging for Vogue. So make the best of it, and, as always, remember to stay classy.
The author is a Columbia College sophomore majoring in biophysics.