Summer: oriented toward work or relaxation?

graphic: Dorothy Weiss and Elizabeth Teng

graphic: Dorothy Weiss and Elizabeth Teng

Imagine a period of time when you can do absolutely nothing. A time when you are completely and utterly relaxed, when there is nothing that has to be accomplished, when you can enjoy every second of the day without worrying, without stress. No, we’re not talking about meditation in gym class; we’re talking about summer. That is how summer should be, right? It is assumed to be a time without school, without work. Yet, as we get older, we find even our summers to be consumed by an overwhelming number of things to do. The two-and-a-half month extended vacation is confined and compressed into a tiny morsel of freedom surrounded by work, jobs, and trips, not to mention the addition of homework.

Many students do not acknowledge the fact that their plans for the summer are going to interfere with certain aspects of relaxation. “Summer should be a time to relax, but it ends up not being that because you have all the work that teachers give you, [as well as] doing camps and other jobs,” said Danielle Almstead ’16. Even with this knowledge, students still maintain set plans to accomplish as much as possible over the summer. Almstead said, “I’m traveling a lot and I’m doing a program with Princeton University where I’m working as an intern in a lab for three weeks.” With more than a month of traveling and 80 hours of community service she intends to complete for Girl Scouts, there is hardly a spare moment for pure relaxation.

Even procrastination can be unsuccessful in allowing students to relax. One might consider putting off work for later to be a natural instinct, but eventually, setting the task aside is proven to be quite unproductive. Anna Herwig ’16 said, “I also have to do [the] summer reading and other schoolwork, but I tend to do those in August so I don’t have to think about it the first months of summer.” To avoid immediate stress, the most logical reaction might be to leave the work for a later time. This, however, will simply cause a buildup of work and can make the end of summer even more disappointing than it already is.

For many rising seniors, summer will mean time to prepare for the college application process ahead. “I will need to do a lot of SAT and ACT prep over the summer,” said Emily Brown ’15. Like Brown, many current juniors plan to take the SAT or ACT one last time during the fall of their senior year in hopes of raising their score. In addition to standardized test prep, the Common Application will be released in early August, which will give the Class of 2015 time to begin applying to colleges. Unfortunately, that work takes away from time that would usually be spent doing other things. “[The Common App is] what I’ll be working on all of August,” Brown said.

Even some underclassmen spend parts of their summers in classrooms. Many rising sophomores plan to take summer courses to try to skip out of classes such as Chemistry I Accelerated and Precalculus Accelerated. “I’m going to take a Peddie credit course to skip Precalc [Accelerated],” said Ashvik Awasti ’17. Even though he is taking a 120-hour course, Awasti still plans to do a lot of relaxing. When asked about what he would like to accomplish most this over the break, he said, “probably getting a lot of sleep.”

On top of interning, homework, trips, college prep, and summer courses, many students plan to take classes in a specific craft or skill over their vacation. For Chris Jost ’16, who will be taking an EMT course this summer, vacation will mean a lot of first aid work. “[I’ll] definitely have to be doing a lot of studying at the squad house, because there’s lots of material to cover and lots of things to do,” he said. “I’ll probably not have much free time over my summer at all.” Despite the amount of work that will be put into becoming an official squad member and the amount of vacation time that he will put aside in this process, Jost looks forward to his training.

Getting a job is also a common practice for teenagers over the summer. “I intend on scooping ice cream at Aunt Betty’s in Ocean City, NJ for a majority of the summer,” said Herwig. “I plan on making enough money to fund my expenses throughout the next school year.” Many other students hope to get jobs as camp counselors, restaurant workers, or lifeguards. Whether it is to save money for a car, raise funds for college, gain experience, or just have something to do over vacation, getting a job is something many students do during their time out of school.

The upcoming summer will be an entirely new experience for the Class of 2014. For the last few months they will be spending at home, many current seniors will try to get the most out of the time with their family, while still juggling college prep and other work. For some, this time between schools may be a relief before college, but for others, it may be stressful or saddening. For Anna Mallory ’14, summer will be a little bit of both. This summer, Mallory will be “packing and probably doing some traveling [as well as] enjoying not being in school for a long period of time.” However, she said that she will make sure she sees all her friends during her vacation and hopes to maintain contact with them as they go their separate ways to college. Also on Mallory’s summer to-do list is going to camp, preparing to live in a dorm, and relaxing.

Unfortunately, summer break can be just as chaotic as the school year, and it may not fulfill our expectations of relaxation. For many, summer has transformed from an exciting break to an extended period to accomplish what we couldn’t during the school year. The tasks we have interfere with our social lives. So, take a moment to look at your schedule, and make some time for yourself, because summer doesn’t last forever.

graphic: Dorothy Weiss and Rhea Braun

graphic: Dorothy Weiss and Rhea Braun