5 questions to ask yourself as you think about summer 

Putting together summer plans is something students often start thinking about over winter break. Instead of weighing yourself down to find the “perfect” summer, consider that the way you spend your summer should really make sense for you. Your perfect summer could look like going home to rest with your family and friends or it could involve traveling to a country you’ve never been before through a study abroad program. As you start considering what to do in your upcoming summer, ask yourself the following 5 questions and see what feels right for you, right now. These questions are also a great springboard to start off conversations with program representatives at the Summer Opportunities and Funding Fair on December 7

Do you want to be outside the United States, or within the United States? Are there any reasons why you may need to stay in the country, like being close to family or having access to your local medical care team? Would you like your experience to be in-person, hybrid, or virtual format? What factors might influence your format preference? Study abroad, for example, is usually only offered in-person. 

Do you want to develop language skills, either by learning a new language or perfecting a language you already have exposure to? Would you like to learn a skill, i.e., something you can add to your resume? Some students want to use their summer to explore a new culture, and others want to focus on earning course credit. Remember that if your goal is to rest and relax, and you can do that by going home, that is a great option.  

Try to identify your top goal for the summer, then see what options are available that support it. For example, you may be focused on learning a new skill, and you may be able to do that through an internship program in Brazil. If you already speak Portuguese, you could develop that skill while practicing your Portuguese and experiencing Brazilian culture in South America. 

What type of opportunity most interests you? Some examples of opportunities include study abroad, internship, research, or public service.  

Do you want to travel on your own or with a group of students?  If you prefer to travel with other students, would you like to be with Harvard students, or students from other colleges?  

Would you like to plan everything yourself, or join a program that plans most things for you? Some students have specific interests and prefer finding and arranging their own housing, meals, transportation, and experience. Planning your trip independently is more work up-front, but you may be happier with the outcome if you have a unique goal in mind, such as a research assistantship with a specific lab or internship with a particular non-profit. If you don’t have a specific experience in mind and you’ve never traveled abroad, or if you need specific support, like access to specialized medical care or accommodations, looking for a pre-arranged program might be a better fit.  

If you’re interested in joining a pre-arranged program, there is likely a program fee you will need to pay in order to participate. It’s important to find out what’s included in the program fee, and what is NOT included. For example, the program fee for a pre-arranged internship or study abroad program may cover housing, but not the cost of airfare or meals.  

Resources for your summer search:

By Kristen Li
Kristen Li Summer Opportunities Funding Coordinator