Be 'smart' about summer holidays

Set SMART goals – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Volunteer, get a certificate, go diving for your summer vacation.

Summer vacation is fun. Everyone looks forward to it. But seven weeks is a long time and there are plenty of productive ways to fill in your time. Set SMART goals — specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Volunteer, get a certificate, go diving.

Be 'smart' about summer holidays

As the end of the school year fast approaches, it’s a good idea to plan some activities for the summer that will enhance your skill set and build a resume that will help open doors for you in the future. While there may be dreams of a summer of just online games and going to the beach, planning things now means you can gain valuable experience over the summer months and still fit in those downtime days.

At YCIS Puxi, I tell our students that they should create SMART goals (which are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely). Seven weeks is a long time, and there are so many ways to fit in productive and meaningful activities that help students build up life skills and have experiences that will influence their decisions about their futures.

One excellent option is to participate in a pre-college academic summer program offered on a university campus. It’s the perfect way to try out different majors, universities, and even countries, so students can make well-informed decisions when considering their post-secondary options. It’s also two to three weeks of experiencing independent life which helps build resilience and set the scene for college. There are so many options around the world including in North America, Europe, Japan and even some interesting options close to home here in China. It may be too late in the year to get into some schools — we usually encourage our students to apply during a mini-fair on Summer Schools we host in the winter — but it’s worth looking into, even if it’s for next summer!

Be 'smart' about summer holidays

Karen Ozkurt is university guidance counselor at YCIS Shanghai Puxi Secondary.

Volunteering is another great way to learn skills and give back to the community, either here in China or back home. In fact, this is a fantastic way to reconnect with your home country. There are also a lot of companies which offer meaningful travel which incorporates volunteer work too, such as Rustic Pathways.

Gaining certificates is something which can be done quite easily, and there are so many options, including taking language exams to certify your language abilities, music exams such as ABRSM, first aid courses, training to become a lifeguard, sailing, and even scuba courses. Some of our students have even gone on to write fantastic college essays about their scuba experiences as it heightened their love of nature and interest in science. Other options which you could do anywhere are online courses from MOOCs such as Coursera or EdX, which let students explore a wide-range of interests at no cost.

I also recommend making time to learn life skills which will make college life so much better, including one which will make you very popular in your dorm: learning to cook. You can take fun classes or learn recipes from grandma, which is a lovely way to bond and make family time even more meaningful.

It all about setting SMART goals and saying “okay, I’m going to learn how to cook three meals in seven weeks, go out for a run every day, and prepare for the TestDaF to prove my German level.” Smart goals mean you’ll be working towards something measurable and realistic, and it means you’ll still have time to relax and unwind after a year of hard work and dedication to your studies. Achieving your goals is proven to increase happiness and life satisfaction too. With goals in place, you can truly make it a summer to remember. Have fun!

(The article is contributed by Karen Ozkurt, university guidance counselor at YCIS Shanghai Puxi Secondary.)

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