The long summer holidays are fast approaching - you’re probably already daydreaming about BBQs and beach trips when you really should be studying. 

How are you going to spend your summer? Working at the local bar or supermarket in your home town? That might be a brilliant way to earn some much-needed cash but it’s not the most inspiring way to spend your time.

Here are four alternative ways to spend your summer break that will be the envy of all your friends. Enjoy once-in-a-lifetime experiences that will look great on your CV and improve your career prospects to boot:

1. Apply for an internship in your field

Whether you’re studying journalism, computer sciences or biology there are hundreds of fantastic internship and work experience opportunities available for the dedicated student.

An internship is the most practical way to get a real feel for your chosen career, whilst gaining valuable skills and experience that will set you apart from other students.

You could work for the BBC, IBM, Goldman Sachs, the Government, BT and even Disney

As an added bonus, internships are often paid, so you won’t have to spend the summer break scraping by on the last of your loan.  

2. Volunteer overseas

We’re very privileged in the UK; we have unhampered access to education, free healthcare and a welfare system.

Perhaps you’re inspired to help those in a less fortunate position, or you’re interested in working for a charity when you graduate, volunteering is one way to give back and gain experience. We’re not exaggerating when we say volunteering can be life-changing.

There are numerous volunteering opportunities in Africa, South America, Asia and even Europe. Volunteering abroad combines travel with vital work – you’ll meet new people, experience a new culture, see the world and make a difference to the lives of vulnerable people.

What more could you want from a holiday?

3. Learn something new

Yes, the summer holiday is supposed to be a break from school but that doesn’t mean you should stop learning. Is there a skill you really want to learn? Take a course (online or in person) or teach yourself how to code/sew/dance/speak French/write in shorthand etc.

A two month break is the perfect time to get productive and build your skill set. There are some things university can’t teach you, so you’ll have to be proactive and go out and learn them yourself! 

4. Travel

Save a bit of money (that means no more cheesy chips on the way home from the pub) and plan a summer escape. How about inter-railing across Europe, trekking in the Sahara or a road trip across America? 

Rather than travelling the world over the course of 12 months when you graduate, why not break it up into smaller, less exhausting, cheaper chunks and travel during the holidays?

You’ll have something to look forward to when you’re revising hard for exams and you won’t have to save thousands of pounds or work whilst you’re away. Win win!

5. Study abroad

Even more studying might be the last thing on your mind after you’ve toiled for weeks over lit reviews, timed essays and final exams. However a summer studying abroad can be a great way to experience another university and get some international travel in.

Lots of universities run programs that send you off to a partnering institution that will even get you extra credits, while others allow you to sample a variety of different unis while traveling around.

Wherever your destination – Europe, Australia, the U.S - a summer studying abroad will let you experience a different university, meet people from around the world, and take in a completely different culture.

6. Attend a festival

If you’re more inclined to stay at home, the UK has some of the best festivals the world has to offer.

And if you find yourself hard up for money, a great way to experience some of the best music around whilst making money is to apply for a job at a festival.

You could even travel from festival to festival, having fun in the sun (or rain) and earning money as you go.

From big names like Glastonbury and V Fest to lesser-known festivals like Boomtown and Hop Farm, organisers will give you your shifts working on bars, hot dog stands or litter-picking, and the rest of your time can be spent as you please!

7. Find a job

This might not be exactly what you had in mind, but a working holiday is something you’ll be grateful for later on when you have a big stash of money in the bank.

Options might include working in a bar, shop or cafe, or a gig at a summer event in your university city like the Edinburgh Fringe, allowing you to reap the rewards of working all summer when the semester begins in September. It also means you get involved with things going on in the local community.

8. Apply to be a holiday rep

If partying abroad is more your style, there’s no better way to do it than spending a season on the beach.

You'll have to do some work along the way, but if having fun is on the agenda this is the best way to do it.

Repping for a holiday company, working on a bar or even dancing for some of the biggest clubs in Europe, there are many opportunities out there.

You’ll meet a great bunch of new people and have a fantastic time in the sun. Or you could go out to Ibiza, Ayia Napa and Zante with a big group of friends to let off some steam between shifts. You might even come back with some extra cash!

9. Get ahead with your degree

Okay, this is an unlikely scenario. It something every student has told themselves. “THIS summer, THIS is the one when I’ll get ahead on reading.”

The task sounds monotonous, it sounds geeky, but by god you’ll be thanking yourself when everyone else is struggling to read Ulysses before Wednesday and you’re cutting about quoting Molly Bloom like you were James Joyce himself.

10. Work at a summer camp

Whether at home or abroad, working with children in a summer camp is another fantastic way to spend those months off uni.

Camp America is one that many opt for, with them taking on people with skills in sports, arts and crafts, water sports, drama…all sorts!

There are also opportunities to work with children and teenagers from abroad, who come to the UK to improve their English or see the country. If you happen to have a TEFL qualification, or just love working with kids this could be the one for you.

11. Stay at home and relax

You could, of course, choose the most boring option and stay at home over the summer. However, this does mean you can kick back and chill out for a few weeks, without the hassle of finding work, a volunteering opportunity, or hitting the textbooks, etc.

It also means that you can do any number of affordable yet enjoyable activities, such as playing sports, going to the cinema, clubbing with mates, eating out or going for a nice, long hike in the countryside.

Further information

For more ideas, tips and advice on what to do during your student summer break, take a look at these sections in our gap year guide:


Feeling inspired? How are you planning to spend the summer? Please pop your comments below if you have your own suggestions you would like to share.