Taking My Own Advice: 6 Ways to Make the Most of Your Summer Work Experience

By Emily McDonough — Let’s face it: our days of endless summer fun are over.  Yep, we all know that with college also comes more responsibility to utilize our summer vacations more productively, such as by taking summer classes, working, and gaining internship experience.

But just because the highlight of our summer days is no longer sticking perfect cannonballs at the pool or chasing down the ice cream truck on a hot day does not mean that we cannot make the most of our summers.  As I began preparing for my own summer internship in Washington D.C., I found myself asking what kinds of goals I was hoping to accomplish throughout my experiences.

I came up with the following list, which is mostly drawn from the wise advice that countless teachers, mentors, and family members have given to me throughout my experiences in both academics and the professional world. I cannot wait to put these pieces of advice into practice throughout my experiences in D.C. this summer, and hope that this list is helpful to everyone looking to make the most of their “not-so-carefree” experiences this summer.

1.      Accept and Learn from Constructive Criticism:
This can be very difficult for many individuals, including myself.  It is important to remember that, although we may think so, we definitely do not know everything.  We are bound to make many mistakes throughout all of our work experiences throughout our lives, but the mistakes we make are only worth it if we learn from them.

2.      Consciously View Issues Through a New and Different Perspective:
This summer, dare to challenge your own understanding of an issue that you are passionate about.  This summer I am lucky enough to view the issue of urban education, an issue which has defined my personal teaching vocation, in a completely different light.  I will be advocating for an effective education for urban students through the perspective of a nonprofit organization rather than the eyes of an educator in the classroom.  While this is slightly nerve-wracking for me, I cannot wait to gain a new and exciting perspective on the world of urban education.

3.      Take Initiative:
I am a firm believer that the efforts you put in to an assignment will directly translate to the sense of pride and achievement you receive after you have finished your task.  Challenge yourself to “think outside the box” on all assignments.  Your superiors will recognize and admire your extra efforts, and you will feel more accomplished about the results of all your hard work.

4.      Read!
From newspapers to novels, poetry to published journals; it does not matter what you read as long as you are reading. Readingfor pleasure is something that is so often tossed aside during the school year simply because of the tremendous amount of other reading and homework required of students. Reading is one of the easiest ways to keep your mind engaged and sharp throughout the summer months.  Take advantage of a somewhat more flexible summer schedule, pick up a good book, and escape to a different literary world for a little while.

5.      Make the Most of Every Situation:
Alright, we all know that working multiple jobs is extremely stressful and the life of an intern is not considered the most glamorous, but it is often the most inopportune conditions which teach the greatest lessons or at least make the best memories.  Embrace the sticky situations just as you would embrace positive circumstances; the outcomes may just surprise you later.

6.      Have Fun and Take Advantage of all that the Summer has to Offer!
Bottom line: it’s summer! It would not be summer without at least a little bit of fun and adventure sprinkled in between working, classes, and all the other things that clutter our busy schedules.  Do not be afraid to set work aside for an afternoon; head out to see a show or take walk around for a few hours and just take in the city.  The national monuments, Smithsonian, and Georgetown’s historic neighborhood are just a few of the fun destinations I plan on taking advantage of throughout my summer in Washington.  Don’t forget to have some fun and make your own rules every once in a while!


Emily McDonough is a senior at Marquette University studying Elementary Education and Communication Studies.  She feels that she has truly found her vocation in teaching and cannot wait to student teach in Spring 2013. Emily will be traveling to Washington DC this summer to take part in an internship with Jumpstart for Young Children, a national early education organization which helps urban children develop the language and literacy skills necessary to be successful in school.  She is very excited to begin working with Jumpstart and looking forward to experiencing all that Washington DC has to offer throughout the summer.

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