Dear freshers, you’re not doing the vacation wrong
So you’ve slept for a couple of days, now what?
As we approach the first vacation, the last question on first years’ minds is likely what to do with the break. Looking forward to Christmas, seeing family or friends or even just taking a break from work, it seems pretty clear-cut what to do.
So a week passes.
And the vacation is seeming less like a break and more like a gulf – you don’t have your friends in college, you can’t go to the JCR or take a spontaneous trip to Jacks. Lots of your friends are still at university or working, and, after the freedom of Cambridge, being at home with family can feel restrictive.
As the initial excitement fades, it’s easy to miss the hectic life of Cambridge. Obviously this doesn’t happen to everyone, but after my first Michaelmas this was certainly the way it went for me and my friends.
There’s no best way to spend your break, but there’s still some things I’d recommend.
It’s called a BREAK
That means it’s not an extension of term. It’s okay to rest. It’s imperative to sleep. If you don’t, then burnout is inevitable. Enjoy time with your family, celebrate if that’s what you do. Socialise, engage in hobbies and do whatever is considered a “holiday” for you.
‘But my supervisor has set…’
Yeah, they tend to set a lot of holiday work. But don’t spend your break worrying about it – my DoS’ one piece of advice for the break stays the same every single year. He advises us to rest. This is equally as important as working, and seeking to have an equal balance of both rest and work will set you up for Lent term.
Don’t neglect your work, otherwise your term will be more stressful (the earlier you can get it out of the way the better!), but equally don’t spend the whole break studying. Otherwise your Lent-term work will be the product of a tired, overworked student.
Too burnt out to socialise
Perhaps you don’t want to go home and catch up with friends or family and that’s totally fine. If your version of a break is watching YouTube with your choice of comforting snack, then you’re not spending your break any better or worse than someone who went on holiday with their friends or has been out every day. As long as you find what’s right for you (and don’t over-exert yourself in the process) then the vacation is a great opportunity for introverts to re-charge their social batteries.
It’s alright for some…
Not everyone fits into the neat category of people who go home to a stable family and spend the holidays celebrating. Many of us have to work, and some don’t go home during the holidays, especially international students. This is all very normal! I know people spending their holidays doing all sorts of different things, and none of them are any more valid than others.
This can, however, make balancing work, rest and socialisation more tricky. While I had a holiday job, I mostly focused on working on my days off. A flexible job or one where weekends are free can really help with this. Setting aside a time period where you take a break no matter what can be very useful, and allow for both socialising and rest.
There are different challenges for those staying in college. Moving around can help – studying in a coffee shop or taking the train to meet friends or family can really break up the work and allow for a much-needed break.
For students who struggle with going home, the break can be hard for any number of reasons. Reaching out to university and home friends over call or in-person can really help, as can studying with them or out of the house.
Whether you’re excited for or dreading the break, keep in mind that there’s no correct way to do it – the only mistake you can make is not giving yourself time to recharge.