The economy of summer

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Remember summer vacation?

I don’t mean summer break. I mean summer vacation, when we would get out of school and begin two months filled with backyard sports, poolside afternoons, and sun-burned nights. When time passed with the air of something sweet and lazy. Remember those summers? Back then, it was summer time and it seemed the living really was easy.

I may give away my mid-West (American) roots, but, back then, cicadas were the number one hit as far as we were concerned and the only light show came from the fireflies.

Nowadays, as teenagers and twenty-somethings celebrate another round of exams passed or nearly passed, we begin our exodus out of St Andrews and onto our ostensible vacation. We rush home but not, as it once seemed, to the relaxation and restful malaise of summer. Rather, we rush to the “concrete work” of internships and summer jobs. Better yet, we fly off to this big city or that, spending our days shadowing some professional or acting as an unpaid secretary for a few months. Summer has quite willfully become a resume building exercise.

I do not intend to condemn this state of affairs: many students fully utilize the opportunities that summer brings to build valuable experience for the post-graduate life. My argument is that summer has transformed into a long, hot season of job training. Employment today is hard to find and increasingly competitive, and summer allows students to build a unique capacity to deal with that competition. One student I spoke to found himself in Kenya last year doing social entrepreneurship. He told me the experience he gained provided him with the confidence that he could succeed in business. He need not add that the likelihood of any potential employer seeing similar experience on a fellow applicant is slim to none. A summer well spent.

The experience of the aforementioned student interests me because it combines the usual sort of career preparation with another common summer activity: travel. Travel can very rarely add to a resume in the traditional sense. A university graduate cannot list the countries they have visited and hand it over to a future employer. This is not to say that travel is useless in the battle for career opportunity: a young person can add valuable life experience and cultural capital to their perspective. A trip across the globe or across the country can provide a dynamic for growth much like a summer spent interning or volunteering locally. There is no reason to discount a trip to the south of Europe or the coasts of America in our life or career path; travel is what you make of it, and the engagement with foreign place is always an engagement with oneself. On a personal level, this engagement fosters considerable growth, which –as for the economy- is key to success.

Whether we prepare through formal or informal experience, we are slowly moving towards the realities of adulthood. The world is as competitive as it ever was. We need all the internships and personal growth we can find -perhaps a balance between the two, a combination of business and pleasure that can be obtained either by travelling to work – volunteering, for instance – or working to travel, splitting your summer between labor and adventure. In any case soon, soon these summers of development will end and preparation for real life will be over.

If you are one of the few who are not participating in the pseudo-workplace of internship and student employment nor travelling and “seeing the world” then fear not. Sit back, sleep in, and relax. Enjoy your summer. The future will fill your time soon enough. For now, you can enjoy the hot June air, the lazy rhythms of the sun, the youthful simplicity of the season. It may be one of the last times you can.

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