Students find fulfillment outside of typical summer internships – The Cavalier Daily

With the end of the semester just around the corner, students around Grounds are taking advantage of the warming weather by spending more time outdoors. Whether they’re playing spikeball or frisbee on the Lawn, grabbing lunch at the Amphitheater food trucks or taking a study break at tables outside of halls, many are looking toward the light at the end of the tunnel — summer.

For some students, summer is spent gaining professional experience at internships or jobs across the country. For others, it’s a much needed break from the stress of academic coursework and extracurricular commitments, as these students seek alternatives to the common internship experience.

First-year College student Kyra Smith is one such student who is looking forward to a unique blend of academic work and vacation time through her study abroad program in Siena, Italy this coming summer. 

“I’m looking forward to all of it, definitely the food,” Smith said. “I’ve never been to Europe or really traveled that much at all, so I feel like that would be a very new experience for me. I’m from Northern Virginia, so this will be the first time I’m going somewhere where I don’t know anyone, so I think I’ll grow a lot and obviously I’m ecstatic just to go and be in Italy.”

For students like Smith, summer can be a time to gain new experiences that weren’t available in high school. Smith elaborated on the differences between the college summer experience and the high school summer experience. Namely, how she perceives college students as more productivity oriented as compared to high school.

“I also think in college, people think of summer as more of an opportunity,” Smith said. “They’re like, ‘what can I do during this time to either meet my goals or work, or have an internship, or just do something I’ve always wanted to do?’, whereas in high school they think of it as a break where they can lay around for three months and enjoy it.” 

Other students will be spending their summers in Charlottesville, such as third-year Education student Evalyn Kim. Kim feels a tangible difference in her relationship to her hometown after spending almost three years away from it.

“I lived in my hometown my whole life, so Warwick was all I knew before coming to U.Va.,” Kim said. “I was pretty content with it, but there wasn’t that much to do, and I knew that then, but now coming back to it, it’s a whole other place. I love seeing my family and my friends, but it definitely feels different because I feel more like a visitor.” 

Kim’s experiences at the University so far have enabled her to feel more connected to Charlottesville and the people who reside in it. This connection is so strong that she has come to consider Charlottesville as a place where she finds the most meaning and fulfillment. She looks forward to experiencing more.

“I would think of Charlottesville more as home now, especially having been here over the summer last year as well. I’ve really liked exploring it so far and am definitely looking forward to finding more cool places this summer,” Kim said.

Being in Charlottesville is a chance to be independent and structure life around events other than coursework. Kim says the absence of classes provides students more time to have fun and enjoy themselves while pursuing experiences that align with their career aspirations.

“I’m excited to be doing things that are really relevant to what I want to be doing in the future, but also having the freedom to do what I want to do with my time,” Kim said. 

Schoolwork can pose a barrier to students’ freedom of extracurricular or leisure activities that can provide comfort and enjoyment. Kim is personally excited to celebrate this freedom.

“It’s always really nice to not be doing school work, and it’s a time to just enjoy yourself,” Kim said. “I think there’s a freedom in that your schedule can be whatever you want it to be, and it doesn’t have to be focused around when your classes are or assignments you have due.”

Kim will be spending the rest of the summer volunteering and working around the greater Charlottesville area as she prepares to begin her master’s program in the School of Education and Human Development in the coming fall. She’ll also be going on trips to visit family and friends that are difficult to see during the academic year using the newfound free time.

“I’m also planning on going to visit my brother in Austin,” Kim said. “He moved there in February, so my parents and I are going to visit him and see Austin because none of us have ever been before. I’m also hoping to visit one of my best friends from high school who goes to the College of Charleston, so I might try to see her. I’m also planning on going home for a little.”

Aside from traveling, warm weather also gives the opportunity to partake in more outdoor activities. Julio Buelna, a second-year College student returning from a gap year, says he has spent much of his time this year at his job at Outdoor Adventure through the University’s IM-Rec Center and plans to continue engaging in outdoor activities this summer.

“[Outdoor Adventure] is a job, but it’s also something I enjoy doing. Also [located] outdoors is a cave not too far from here that I’m planning to explore again,” Buelna said.

Whether it’s spending more time outdoors or studying abroad, summer allows students to take a step back and enjoy some of life’s simple pleasures. Buelna described his love for taking advantage of his free time as well as the evening’s coolness to relax and engage in some of his favorite hobbies.

“I really enjoy swimming … but also I like how relaxing the nights are during the summer,” Buelna said. “The days are really hot and then the night comes and then I can go outside and just relax. It’s warm, just like a cool breeze and beautiful weather … I’m probably going to skateboard a little bit during the summer as well.” 

No matter what students choose to spend their summer doing, summer provides a welcome break from academic stress prior to the fall semester.

“I definitely see [summer] as a break,” Smith said. “It’s nice because whether or not you’re working, have an internship or doing something like that, it’s different from what you do for the majority of the year. Even if you’re busy, it’s still a break from what you normally do before everything resets and is brand new when you go back again. So I think it’s a nice transition time.”