With a pandemic raging around us and social distancing guidelines still very much applicable, it can be difficult (if not downright impossible) to engage in a lot of the same activities you might have before COVID-19 came to town. As summer rolls around, many college students find themselves without the internships and jobs that were going to take up a big portion of the next three to four months. If you don't have any concrete plans as to how you're going to fill the time, it can be easy to feel like this summer will be wasted.
As awful as this situation is, there's no reason that you can't take advantage of this extra time while maintaining social distancing guidelines and protecting public health. For the college students who have suddenly found themselves without plans this summer, here are ten projects you can pick up to ensure this summer doesn't go to waste.
1. Learn a new language.
Though learning to speak a new language is best done through total immersion, there's no reason you can't spend the next few months learning the basics. Apps like Duolingo and Babbel are great places to start, and familiarizing yourself with media like online articles, TV shows, and podcasts in another language can help you fine-tune your skills. Having language skills outside your native tongue will make you extremely marketable in almost any field and has also been proven to improve cognitive skill.
2. Volunteer online.
Just because you can't actually go out and volunteer somewhere doesn't mean you can't donate your time and skills to help people. Organizations like United Nations and Amnesty International have virtual volunteering platforms, or you could become a crisis text counselor or translator with minimal training. If none of these sound appealing, a quick Google search for "online volunteering" is sure to provide you with an opportunity that is interesting to you, looks great on a resume, and helps fill your time.
3. Teach yourself a coding language or software.
Even if your dream career path doesn't specifically involve computers, being proficient in at least one coding language or software may make you more marketable as a job applicant. Do some research and see if there's something specific people in your field or major use frequently. Given the abundance of online self-teaching resources, you should be able to pick up at least a basic knowledge of how it all works.
There's no time like the present to get started on that list of books you've always wanted to read but never had the time. Reading is a really good way to keep your brain working even though classes are over, and has been proven to reduce stress by up to 68% if done regularly.
5. Teach yourself how to cook.
If you don't already live on your own, chances are you'll have your own place within the next few years. With new independence and new budgetary restraints, knowing how to cook is going to be essential. Resources for the beginning chef are everywhere online, and at most you'll need to pick up a few extra ingredients during your periodic run to the grocery store.
6. Get your finances in order.
College is expensive, but hopefully the ongoing situation has allowed you to cut back a little on costs. Assess how much money you have, and make a careful budget for the next few months (this is especially important if you no longer have an income). Start formulating a plan for how you're going to pay off any loans you may have taken out, make sure you have at least a small amount in savings for an emergency fund, and, if you haven't already, do some research on investment accounts and start investing.
7. Start a workout routine.
If you don't already have a fitness routine set up, now is the best time to start. Your metabolism will never be better than it currently is, and adopting healthy habits now will make it much easier to stick to them as you get older. Even if many gyms remain closed this summer, you can work out at home in ways that don't require any equipment like running and bodyweight exercises. Aim to start with a thirty minute workout 3-4 times a week, and build from there as you start to see results.
8. Meticulously organize your space.
You're probably spending a lot more time at your house than you ever have before. Take some time to organize and deep clean, starting with your room and expanding out to other parts of the house. You can purge your closet and bookshelves while you're at it; selling these things online or at secondhand stores once things open up again is a good way to make a little extra money.
9. Start looking into future opportunities.
In the next year or two, where do you plan to be? Still in undergrad? Grad school? In the workforce? If you haven't already, sit down and start seriously plotting out your next move. Update your resume, start looking for organizations on campus related to your field, search for local internships and job shadow opportunities you can pursue when things open back up again, plan out all your classes for the rest of undergrad if you haven't already. This summer's plans may have been cancelled, but that doesn't mean you can't start planning for the fall and next summer.
10. Learn how to relax.
You may never again in your life have a period of time where you are encouraged to lie low. By all means, stay active and use this time to prepare for your future, whether that means establishing good habits, learning new skills, or getting ready for whatever comes next, but remember that you are also allowed to take a breather and live in the moment. Find a balance between productivity and self-care, because there will be plenty of time for frenzied worry when things start moving at their normal pace again.
Hopefully these ten things can help you have a more productive summer, even if most of you're original plans have gotten cancelled.