As college students, we tend to worry about the future quite a bit—from how we will possibly finish the assignment due tonight at 11pm to our acceptance speech for Best Picture at the 117th Oscars. However, there is one worry that tends to run rampant this time of year which is common to us all: “What am I going to do this summer?”

Minerva’s schedule gives a full four month summer break each year, which presents students with a lot of time to take advantage of. However, if you’re afraid you cannot (or do not want to) land that internship at Google or Apple, here is some inspiration on what to do instead, inspired by our Minerva peers who have already broken away from that imaginary status quo.  

1. Be an Uber driver in your hometown

Alex Hutu, from the class of 2020, used his first summer to escape from professional development obligations. Instead of chasing that perfect career opportunity, he decided to spend his summer at home, reconnecting with friends and taking a breather from Minerva’s rigorous academics.

To fill the time and make some pocket money, he also decided to take on driving with the Uber app in his city in Romania. His reason to become a driver? Hutu said, “when I was five, my dream was to become a taxi driver, so I made it happen”. While most of us abandon our childhood dreams, taking a summer to pursue the job that sounds silly now could still be fun and rewarding. Now, he is still one of the top rated drivers in the area, with a 4.9 star rating.  

2. Dive deep into a creative passion

Since arts are not explicitly taught in Minerva’s curriculum, student passion in this arena is often pushed aside into extracurriculars or not pursued at all given rough time constraints. For Izzy Rousmaniere, class of 2020, this was a frustrating turn of events that led her to decide to pursue theater, and particularly acting, in her first summer after starting at Minerva.

Photo: Buck Lewis

She researched programs, and went through demanding application processes in order to land a spot in the Acting Apprenticeship program at Powerhouse, a prestigious program held at Vassar college to train aspiring artists alongside a professional track of working performers which features renowned names in the industry.

Here, she was able to explore her personal passion. “I am so much happier when I am taking care of my whole self,” which, she explained, includes her “creative, intellectual, emotional, [and] physical selves”.

Rousmaniere also had a unique experience, from the perspective of a Minerva student. She was able to experience having a traditional campus at Vassar, which made her appreciate her alternative college experience. “It was deeply uncomfortable, because it was so comfortable” said Rousmaniere about traditional college life.

3. Pick up some odd jobs

For example, dancing as an extra on a TV show. This is one of the many temporary employment arrangements Sadie Werner, class of 2019, found herself with in the summer after her first year. She also chaperoned younger dancers on sets, and was able to travel to Israel under Jewish Birthright. While, frustratingly, this trip impeded her from taking a last minute job offer, the summer was still fun, and filled with free food.

4. Bartend in New York City

Zane Sand, class of 2020, was only 18 years old when he became a full time bartender in New York this past summer. His decision to do so was driven mainly by a need to prove wrong those who said he could never do so. Sand was able to hustle his way to a bartending job after first being hired as a barback when he demonstrated his skills and showed extreme dedication to his work. While not typically prestigious, this is an astounding accomplishment, as Sand says, “I was probably the only person 18 and bartending in New York City.”

While this job involved some rough hours, he was also able to get a lot out of his time, saying, “You get to learn about the dark underbelly of humanity”. Through this, he came to understand that, “You cannot tell [people] how to live their life.” It was, on the whole, an enlightening experience. Sand also found confidence in his ability to financially support himself, even in a notoriously overpriced city.

5. Confirm that you enjoy the career you want to pursue

…even if that means taking an unpaid position at a less prestigious organization. In her second summer, Werner (2019) was able to secure a position in her desired field of journalism.

However, this internship, which came jam-packed with valuable experience and skill building, came without any compensation attached, at a small paper in the town where she could live with a parent, to do the work she wanted to without losing money. While this may not be feasible for everyone, looking to smaller, less notorious companies when first starting out may help you be able to take on the type of work you are most interested in, even if it isn’t particularly glamorous.

6. Confirm that you do not want to do research  

As a Natural Sciences major, Colette Brown, class of 2019, decided to seek out a position doing research in her second summer, despite the fact that she already believed she did not want to do research at any point in her career. This experience was still valuable and rewarding to her in many ways. She was able to join a team working on atmospheric research in Boulder, Colorado, and work as an independent researcher even under the title of “intern”.

Photo: Gabriela Negrete

Brown also felt as if she grew personally by removing herself from the intense context of Minerva and academic expectations. She said that when she was praised for her work, she realized that, “Minerva does not do a good job at telling you when you have done a good job.” So, even though she came out of the experience reassured that she would not pursue further research positions, her time in Boulder was still extremely enjoyable both in her personal growth and professional experience of being “treated like a scientist.”

7. Build a network

Louis Brickman, class of 2019, spent his last summer doing something he never intended to—hanging around without a job in his home of New York City. This was due to an unfortunate series of events which prevented him from getting the security clearance necessary to work at the US State Department, where he had been offered an internship.

However, Brickman was able to take advantage of his time in the city when he began acting upon advice he was given by Jesse Silberberg, a member of Minerva’s Professional Development team. Silberberg, who visited New York in the middle of the summer, suggested that he try to build a network in the city—reaching out to professionals, using his existing contacts, and requesting informational interviews. Brickman, following this advice, was able to connect with multiple professionals in his field of interest—even getting coffee with someone working in New York City’s mayor’s office.

However, he also found that the firsthand experience with the inefficiencies of bureaucracy made him begin to reconsider his career aspirations, saying, “It made me question whether I want to be in government, it turned me a lot more to the private sector”.

While his summer was still professionally fruitful, Brickman advises others to keep applying for internships when your top offer is not confirmed—which may mean it requires security clearance, or even that you are waiting on a visa to work outside your home country.

8. Teach middle schoolers dance and literature

Another way to spend the summer in New York City is to teach, as Alex Sanchez from the class of 2020 was able to do last summer. Through a program called Breakthrough, which runs summer school programs for underserved students across the country, Sanchez took up teaching literature and dance to a class of 8th graders in the city.

Much to the tune of Brown’s research experience, Sanchez said, “I decided I do not want to teach.” However, his reasoning for this had nothing to do with the kids, who he loved interacting with, but instead his lack of connection to the subject he was teaching: literature. He does, however, feel that teaching is much closer to what he would like his ultimate profession to become than his previous experience in education policy. Each summer, in this way, offers a chance to iterate on your prior conception of a career aspiration.

9. Nanny on a farm

Before Brown (2019) was an atmospheric scientist for three months, she spent her first summer working as a nanny for a family on a rural farm in Ireland. Part of her reasoning in doing so was the need to do summer academic work to prepare for her second year of Minerva. However, this turned out to be not nearly as demanding as she had presumed, and she realized that although she shared a strong connection with the children she worked with, rural Ireland was not the place she wanted to be. Still, seeing so much of the country her grandparents are from was also valuable.

So there you have it, 9 things to do over summer instead of a tech internship. For more, possibly funnier, suggestions, check out Zoey Haar’s piece on The Meekly.