As a PhD Research Student, summer is the time when the office and labs suddenly empty as all my colleagues depart for exciting international conferences or the holiday they have been dreaming of all through the long dark winter. Sadly, I won’t be joining them this year. With only a few months left to finish all my lab work before my funding ends, I simply can’t afford to take any extended time away from the department. If I was a computational scientist and could take my work with me, things might be different but as a plant scientist, I have to be around to look after my ‘babies’.
Of course, there are other reasons that can keep you from having a proper summer holiday: lack of money; a commitment to a part time job or personal circumstances. It can be hard not to envy jet-setting friends, especially when you are so ready for a break from your studies. But it is still possible to have a summer that leaves you feeling refreshed and brings new and inspiring experiences. Here are my tips on how to do it:
Learn to be
Even when we do manage to get away, we often bring our worries and stresses with us: we may be physically absent but mentally still in the office. The more relaxed summer months can be an ideal opportunity to practice stopping the constant mental chatter and simply appreciating the present. Mindfulness has many demonstrated benefits including building resilience, improving concentration and combatting depression – all of which could make a crucial difference when the workload picks up again. There are many online tutorials and apps (such as Headspace) to get you started and when the sun is shining, what better place to practice then Weston Park? Start with something small but regular, even a few minutes during your lunch break, and you could soon see results.
Up skill yourself
Did you ever dream of being able to do something but never found the time to learn? Now is the perfect chance to rekindle that ambition! How about brushing up your foreign language skills so you can chat with the locals when you finally do get abroad? Or learning how to sew, paint or play a musical instrument? With so many online learning platforms and YouTube tutorials these days, you don’t even have to attend a timetabled class in person but can learn at your own time and pace. Personally, I’m a great fan of FutureLearn’s online courses and the coding school on General Assembly – both free! Whether you want to arm yourself with CV-enhancing skills or make a start on some homemade Christmas Presents, you can make sure that when summer ends, you have more than a suntan!
Embrace other cultures
If you can’t reach foreign climes, then bring the essence of them back here. You can journey the world by simply taking a trip to London Road: with its abundance of international restaurants, you could sample a different cuisine each week. Or why not have a go at cooking an exotic dish yourself, taking inspiration from the ethnic food stalls in the Moor Market? I’ll certainly never forget trying goat curry or my take on octopus stew! Immerse yourself in foreign films and music, or even dance. So many different nationalities make Sheffield home, you are bound to find something you have never encountered before.
Become an Eventbrite junkie
If you are ever at a loose end one weekend, head over to Eventbrite to see what’s happening on your doorstop. You don’t need a plan as a whole array of things will suggest themselves. I’m often amazed by the sheer variety of events (often free!) open to anyone from business coaching to computer hackathons to pottery classes – I once even stumbled upon a ‘Unicorn and Prosecco Festival’’! It’s easy to get trapped in the ‘Student Bubble’, but Eventbrite is an easy way to connect to activities beyond the Student’s Union. You could also try Welcome to Sheffield and Skiddle.
Have a ‘micro-holiday’
With a bit of planning, you can squeeze an escape into just a day or two. The Peak District is perfect for a spontaneous minibreak amongst nature: gorgeous scenery, easily accessible by public transport and an extensive network of Youth Hostels for budget accommodation. My favourites have to be YHA Ravenstor, hidden in the trees of the sublime Wye Valley, and YHA Hartington Hall – a 17th century manor house surrounded by brilliant walking and cycling trails. If you’re looking for a cultural break, why not have a day trip to Harrogate or Buxton, or even a weekend in York? For more budget accommodation ideas, check out AirBnB or websites that offer house sitting opportunities.
Have a great summer!