Summer Awaits

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As another academic year draws to a close, students are faced with the long-awaited summer holiday that has become a customary aspect of our scholastic routine. The 6-week vacations of primary and secondary school, that once seemed far too short a break for students and teachers alike, are suddenly extended to three-month breaks at university. Yet, while the shift to elongated summers is welcomed, and earned, by hardworking students, there is an inescapable shift in our feelings towards the vacation, the older we get. 

Whether or not you happen to be a Jenny Han enthusiast, the striking relatability of her famous protagonist, whose “whole life was measured in summers”, is prominent. Growing up, the Gregorian calendar was of little importance to the structure of our year. For as long as I can remember, at least, my year started in September and ended in August – the goal was to make it through term time in order to relish in the final months off school. The summer months signified a time of repose, where we were freed from the strictures of schoolwork and the monotony of term-time tribulations. During sunnier seasons, childhood became composed of family holidays and playing in the park. Even as teenagers, our slaving away at secondary school was rewarded with time in the sun with friends to walk, talk, drink – every opportunity for independence and excitement was exploited. 

I must either accept the existential crisis that lies in the termination of teenage hood, or I can savour the bittersweet goodbyes to new friends, new experiences and one of the final summers before graduating

However, at risk of sounding alarmingly morbid, I cannot help but notice that with uni life comes the inevitable grim reaper of adulthood. The term-time preoccupation with food shops and deadlines is subtle preparation for life in the adult world, and students become stuck in a state of limbo at the end of the year, unsure on how to return to hometown life after such a period of remote self-reliance. Amidst the enthusiasm for the end of exams, a sweeping sense of nostalgia seems to settle upon the last few weeks of Easter term, as friends share tearful goodbyes and promises to stay in contact before the autumnal return to Durham. Summer is no longer the simple, straightforward experience of uninterrupted fun and closeness with the same circle of friends. Rather, students suffer the agonising push-pull force that is the ease and familiarity of home friends and activities, against the sentimental absence of the connections they have cultivated in their home away from home. 

My own experience as a fresher is gradually concluding, and the last few weeks have consisted of parties, picnics, and a primarily alcohol-based diet. In many ways, the summer has already begun, and there is almost an atmosphere of urgency to participate in every opportunity the warmer season has to offer. For most freshers, this is our last summer as teenagers, and for a great deal of students, we face one of the last opportunities to enjoy a summer of travel and true free time, before the imminence of summer internships, work experience, and placement. Against my better judgement, I even find myself romanticising the thought of a final summer in hospitality, as my minimum-wage waitressing job rears its ugly head for a fourth summer in a row (touching wood as I write this – I can only hope this is in fact my final summer serving fries). The impending threat of an alternative career is unquestionably a further incentive to make the most of the experiences that may soon become a thing of the past.

So, as a proud victim to the overwhelming end-of-year nostalgia, I, like most uni students, face a choice. I must either accept the existential crisis that lies in the termination of teenagehood (not to be dramatic, of course), or I can savour the bittersweet goodbyes to new friends, new experiences, and one of the final summers before graduating. In my staunch determination to enjoy every aspect of this holiday, I choose the latter.

Image: Tran via Pexels

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