Scrapping summer vacation for summer education

Rick Cookson

Rick Cookson

Since I was a kid, the end of May symbolized the end of nine ruthless months or so spent inside the classroom. The ring of the final bell put an end to stressful essays and tedious projects, and signaled the beginning of deep relaxation paired with a joyous carelessness.

For every year I’ve been in school, the summer vacation has meant nothing but unwinding and hanging out with friends while we participate in less-than-reputable activities. June through the first of August was a period to catch up on sleep and goof around. But in the past two years, I’ve lost the yearning for a summer full of vacation and gained the desire for a summer full of education.


I’m not talking about summer classes. I’m talking about 100 percent pure, unadulterated, self-education through the means that fit the study the best.

As a literature major, it’s not that hard to find a way to continue my studies when school isn’t in session. All I have to do is read and hopefully find someone who is reading the same book as I am to talk about it with. Unfortunately, I meet far too many of my fellow students during the summer who they tell me they’re bored, but simply look to the care-free lifestyle of your stereotypical college student’s summer.

I don’t believe it’s a matter of willpower, but I do believe it’s a matter of not having found the specific and most effective way to self-educate themselves.

Sure, school isn’t always the most exciting thing, but educating oneself in the area of their interest and in a way that seems more like merriment than cultural punishment will make their own learning much better.

For instance, I’m currently reading Khaled Hosseini’s third novel, “And the Mountains Echoed,” after reading his first two books, “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” and I am creating my own essay prompts for it. As of right now, I’m writing on the similarities and motifs within and between the female characters of each novel. The assignment has done wonders for how I understand Hosseini’s characters and it has also allowed me to jump into some of my favorite chapters of his previous works and experience so much nostalgia that I nearly overdose on the stuff.

That’s only one little thing I’m working on. Since I’ve been doing this work — these small assignments I give myself — I’ve been able to deter the boredom of unexciting summer days and continue to learn. Not only are my methods for educating myself in the summer applicable during June and July, but I have spanned their usefulness deep into the depths of my regular school year. In the 2014-2015 school year, there were countless moments when the assigned reading had already been in my planner for months because I did it in the summer.

For me, it’s about remembering what I’m here at our fine University for — an education. Whenever someone asks me, “What are you going to do with your degree?” I always like to say, “I’m not really sure. Put it in a box and never look at it again.” The real question is, “What are you going to do with your education?”

Your education is what matters — not education as in a college degree, but the lifelong pursuit of knowledge and education within the area of study that just makes the wheels turn even if the engine is out of gas.

The next time you’re sitting on your couch, sweating into the cushions like a fine cheese sitting on the counter on a hot summer day, go figure out how to educate yourself. Go learn, and learn in the way that makes you happy.

Collegian Senior Reporter Rick Cookson can be reached at or on Twitter @RickCookson1.