Undergraduate Students: Exploring your Summer

There are many opportunities you can pursue this summer.

Before you sign up for every event on offer, or resign yourself to a summer of solitude, we encourage you to take a bit of time to think strategically about how to make the most out of your summer.

Step One: Reflect on Your Goals

  • What is something that you have always been interested in but have never had the time or space to pursue?  Try journaling about this, or brainstorming with someone who knows you well, such as a friend, family member or trusted advisor.
  • If your summer plans fell through, what skills or knowledge were you hoping to gain through those plans?
  • What do you want your story to be, and how can you spend the next few months building that story?  
  • Are there any gaps in your current coursework and skills that you would like to fill?  Review your advisement report, read entry-level job ads or research opportunities in your desired field to see what their most frequently requested qualifications are, and bookmark examples of cool projects that could serve as inspiration.

Step Two: Identify Possibilities

  • Explore these opportunities offered through Duke:
  • Consult this list from Duke Libraries with suggestions for self-directed research projects and online skill development resources.
  • Are there relationships you’d like to develop personally or professionally that relate to your academic goals?  Make a list of alumni currently working in your field and set a goal to reach out to two to three per week for virtual coffee chats to learn more about their career pathway and what they look for in new hires.
  • Take the DIY route by creating a community engagement project. To get started, consider: What is a current unmet need in your community?  Where might you look for examples or models?  Who are the people and/or institutions in your community who have been working in/on this field?  What experience or resources do you have that support your getting started? What might you need and with whom might you collaborate on finding those resources? 
  • Duke Mutual Aid is a great place to find inspiration and make connections.
  • The Duke Office of Civic Engagement offers Resources for Ethical and Responsible Engagement, a collection of readings and activities compiled by Duke staff and faculty to support deeper learning and preparation for civic and community engagement experiences. 

Step Three: Create a Plan

  • How will you structure your learning? If the opportunity you are considering requires a set number of hours per day or week, can you identify blocks of time that are most conducive to accessing the resources you need (such as a computer, internet connection and private workspace) – especially if those resources are shared with others in your household? Schedule a learning consultation with the ARC to develop a plan.
  • Decide how you will document your work. Does the opportunity you plan to pursue offer a credential upon completion? Have you set up an e-portfolio to capture your process and house any final products or projects? How and with whom will you share these?
  • Identify an accountability partner, someone who can help you hold yourself accountable for progress on your goals. This can be a friend, a family member, or a faculty or staff member. Duke Accountability Productivity Partners, a student-created service, even offers matching based on a short online survey. Define how often you will check in with your partner—daily or weekly—to report on your activities. It can be as simple as sending a weekly email to your accountability partner listing what you’ve done.
  • At the conclusion of each project or course, schedule a debrief session with a DAE to share your progress, reflect on what you’ve learned and identify opportunities for future growth. If helping out with family responsibilities has taken up a significant portion of your time, a DAE can also help you think about how to make that part of your story and how you can relate it back to your academic and co-curricular activities.

Step Four: Document Your Learning

  • Writing throughout your summer experience provides an opportunity to document your learning and growth. The Thompson Writing Center provides this handout on autobiographical reflective writing.
  • Reflective writing models can help you deepen and document your learning. Duke Service-Learning recommended the DEAL Model which is often used in experiential education courses and provides students with a method to dig deeper into the critical learning of an experience.
  • The Thompson Writing Program offers reflection questions for internships, which include written prompts and multi-modal and creative activities to document learning.
  • The Writing Studio is offering online sessions all summer beginning May 13 to assist students in writing projects.