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Summer Transitions for College Students

Bill Reichle » Bill Reichle Therapy/Counseling » Bill Reichle Therapy/Counseling

Summer for Students 

Whether you’re preparing for the big internship you landed, training for a fall sports season, or returning home for some much-needed rest, the start of Summer break comes with a period of adjustment for nearly all college students. As somebody who values her routine, I seem to forget every year just how disorienting transitioning into Summer can be. Many students are thrown from the most stressful week of the semester – finals week – right back into their hometowns. After days of being booked from the minute we wake up to the minute we go to bed, our schedules suddenly clear up. Conveniently enough, the moment we are given nothing but free time is the moment we move back into our childhood rooms that don’t quite feel like ours anymore. I’d like to share a vulnerable account of my past two Summers as well as the transition period I am in now. 

Freshman Year 

During my Freshman summer, although it sounds silly, I had to grapple with the fact that I had grown up. I also had to grapple with the fact that I did not yet feel like a grown up. I viewed the world differently than I did when I left my small town in Pennsylvania, but I still had to text my Mom around lunchtime to double-check that I was following a recipe correctly. In short, this Summer came with a mini identity crisis and feeling stuck between two worlds. My anxiety levels heightened, and I did not know how to handle the lack of structure that came from being home. Those I had been close with in high school had drifted apart, and my social interaction rested upon the two or three friends I had kept in contact with. I could not exercise due to a second knee surgery that I had on the calendar, and I quickly began experiencing an overall decrease in motivation and excitement. 

I share the story of my first Summer because I don’t think enough people talk about how difficult it is. As soon as you begin creating friendships that feel deeper than simply being on one another’s team or hall, the pause button is pressed. Moreover, as I said, at least some part of you likely changed between entering college and finishing your first year. Nobody tells you how strange it feels to live in your childhood bedroom when you don’t feel like a child anymore. Looking back, I now recognize the importance of embracing the confusion and not needing to put a name on this stage of my life. I do, however, wish somebody told me a piece of advice I often use today: Do the next right thing. When I had virtually no structure in my everyday life and could not work out, the smallest tasks felt daunting – until I did them. For example, if it took me a while to get out of bed, it was often because I was thinking about how I would have to make breakfast and clean my room and figure out what to do with the day and feed the dogs (I didn’t have to feed them until 4 pm) and shower and somehow figure out how to not feel like this when I woke up the next day. And every morning without fail, as soon as I actually got up, the day did not feel so hard anymore. This is all to say that anxiety in

periods of transition can be paralyzing, but if you focus on only doing the “next right thing,” you may notice that the next right thing isn’t so scary after all. 

Sophomore Year 

While my Freshman Summer was defined by feeling caught between two worlds, my Sophomore Summer threw me head-first into the real world. I got a last-minute internship in Washington, DC, and my teammate and I found a house to sublet for the Summer. I had lived in the city for two years by now, but this was my first time with my own room and a bed bigger than a twin XL. While I appreciated learning about electoral politics over the Summer, learning how to (effectively) grocery shop, how to balance workouts with work, and how to keep a car in the city proved equally as important (I only received one parking ticket over three months – a true accomplishment if you know anything about parking in Georgetown). As a bonus, my job was like being in a real-life version of “The Office” – a hilarious yet unconventional entry into the professional world. 

My Sophomore Summer was the complete antithesis of my Freshman one. The more that I had to rely on myself, the more I proved to myself that I was capable. That leads me to my takeaway from these few months – nothing worth discussing ever occurs inside your comfort zone. I’d be lying if I said that I did not panic when I saw my teammate meal prepping upon my arrival to D.C. (let’s recall that I still had to consult my Mom when it came to recipes). I’d be lying if I said I did not have to take breaks from canvassing for the campaign I was working on simply because I couldn’t handle people being rude to me. As the weeks progressed, however, I grew more and more confident in my ability to figure it out. This Summer taught me that happiness is derived not from having all the answers, but by falling in love with searching for them. For those with similar plans for this Summer, if you can learn to get comfortable with betting on yourself, you may find that the odds are often in your favor. 

Currently… 

And that brings me to this Summer which has already been a mixture of chaotic and incredible. I had a three-day break between finals and starting my internship in D.C., so I decided to visit home in Pennsylvania, where I found that my phone no longer automatically connects to the Wifi (heartbreaking). I can’t move into my senior house until June, so I’ve been navigating transition housing and practicing the skill of packing lightly. 

I’ve begun to realize that the point of these months is to embrace change. If you told Freshman Bailey that she would be on her own and living out of a suitcase while starting a new job, she would not know how to act. I’ve accepted that I am meant to feel differently about life now than I did after my first year, and I’ve found that any nerves regarding Summer and change have been replaced with overwhelming excitement. College is…weird – it is suspended in a state of in-between that is not quite kid and is not quite adult, and Summer has this ability to make students feel like this is not allowed.

The truth is, we are not meant to have it figured out. In fact, we are meant to be at least a little confused. All the while, these years of uncertainty are the same ones that we will reflect upon as the ones in which we grew the most. I wish I had the magic solution to the disorientation and anxiety that might come from packing up a dorm room, but I have come to learn that the solution is to quit searching for one. My advice is to practice the art of being where your feet are, and when all else is lost, just do the next right thing.

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Bailey Tietz Student Athlete
Student Athlete, Field Hockey, at Georgetown University. Bailey is currently a Junior.