Summer vacation is the real drag

By Mike Fox

Summer used to be the best time of the year. Do you remember that anticipation during the last class, waiting for that final bell to ring? Then there was that mad rush out the doors into a perfect sunny day. Along with it came release from the sense of obligation that grade school forced on us. We could forget the books for a while to be full time kids.

Once free, some of us stuck close to home, others went off to camp to meet up with friends from distant places, and for many of us, there was the compulsory summer family vacation.

It somehow justified our belief that all of those commitments placed on us September through May weren’t natural. Now we could return to our true state where the world was easy to understand and even control.

I don’t think I’m alone when I say the school year has become the more fun part of the year as opposed to summer, which feels like a shocking return to reality. We all have to hunt down internships to boost our resumes or jobs to supplement our college expenses. We’re no longer living with our friends. Parties are fewer and farther in between.

For me, it means reprising my role as camp counselor because nothing else worthwhile awaits. The curse of being a political science major is that internships that seem prestigious are surprisingly easy to get, but are practically never paid. The summer after freshman year I went back to camp. I loved the return to camp after a several year absence, and truly felt like I was mentoring young adults. However, there was some sort of unspoken agreement among the kids my age that to stay here any longer past our year would exceed our “expiration date.”

Sure, we still fit in those trips to the beach, and there isn’t the constant barrage of papers and exams . But we can decide so much more about the balance between fun and work in college. Anyone who says summer brings a needed respite from college work either needs to suck it up, switch their major, or feel lucky that they have the opportunity to work hard.

Last summer I had a sort of unique situation. I was set to leave halfway through for a study abroad. I wondered , “Why on earth would someone hire me for a month – especially when plenty of people would work for that month and beyond considering the current state of the economy?” I might have fibbed my way into a job at Panera, but was lucky enough to score a gig selling knock-off designer sunglasses at the Wrentham Outlets (paid under-the-table by the way).

This summer I weighed my options. Unfortunately, with the pickings slim, and my car off to the auto body shop in the sky, I wouldn’t be able to commute to most jobs, anyway. Plus, at this point, my hometown, no matter how much I love it, was starting to feel like a drag in comparison to Amherst. Therefore, I found a listing to work as a help-line operator for the University, (I like talking to people…) and extended the lease at my house through the summer. In addition, I had an ungodly number of commitments set for the fall, and being in Amherst those few extra months would make fulfilling them that much easier.

Instead of complaining, I have been hit with the heart-warming reality of how extremely committed and passionate tons of families are to ensuring their children’s futures. I have walked families through their financing options. Some find a way to continue their time at UMass. Others are pushed to the point of desperation where their frustrations lead to feelings of failure. Finally, I apologize for not being able to help further, and our conversation ends.

I realize how lucky I am. My grandparents cleared a straightforward path for me to college ,and the journey has been fairly easy. For many securing a college education is far from straightforward. The amount of students taking out loans, scraping for scholarships and grants, and chasing down every other whim out there is the way of the world.

Putting a call to action at the end of something is never the smartest idea, but for those few that have read my ramblings to this point, please let go of your K-12 summers and realize that the real world is coming fast. The only way we will all make it and not be rattled by the shock is by helping to advocate for our school and for our classmates. Reality can be harsh. Keep that in mind the next time someone asks you for a simple signature to help support those that aren’t as lucky as you are, and are forced to put it all on the line to stay here.

Mike Fox is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]