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Skills for the Summer

The summer period gives ample opportunity to develop several hobbies that are both enjoyable and useful in the long-term. There are also many resources online that make more things accessible; from painting, fitness, or designing a website. Hobbies that can provide transferable skills to take into an academic or corporate environment are essential to personal development. In this post, I have rounded up several skills that one can take up – and potentially master – in a month. These range from more creative tasks (which can introduce a new interest in artistic pursuit) to practical tasks, that can develop your digital aptitude. The summer holidays are an ideal time to expand one’s interests in different areas, alongside gaining skills that will aid you throughout life.

 

  1. Learning Basic Code – The benefits of coding are greatly overstated but certainly true. Coding gives people the opportunity to learn how to build simple website designs and games, as well as refining logic and problem-solving abilities. Non-profit foundation org is helpful for coding novices. It provides a great starting point with lots of useful online resources. Code Monster is a great resource for young kids to teach them different coding commands and what they do. Coding can unlock the door for a greater interest in computing and digital design.

 

  1. Learning a Foreign Language – Although many students will encounter more than one foreign language in their primary and secondary school curriculum, the summer is the perfect time to brush up on our linguistic skills. One can also learn a new language through online resources such as DuoLingo or even through private tuition. Communication is an essential skill and knowing more than one language encourages education on different cultures and practises.

 

  1. Volunteering – Although the current situation has left limited options when it comes to face-to-face interactions, there are various opportunities to still volunteer and help out in our local communities. Emailing non-profit social organisations shows initiative towards getting involved with different social causes. In our new ‘Zoom’ climate, one can also volunteer tutoring services to younger students, offering academic help through voice or video call.

 

  1. Photography – The art of photography is special in that its canvas is the world around us, and its tool is non-specific; one can use a DSLR camera or phone camera. There are so many tutorials online to learn basic portraiture, landscape photography, or fashion photography. The members of your household can act as models when you need some inspiration!

 Although I have only suggested four, there is a seemingly endless list of skills you can try out. This online page has compiled a huge comprehensive list for those who want to choose more than a couple of activities. Remember, the aim is not always to master, but to keep practising beyond the summer months!

 

 

Beat the Heat! Ways to Stay Cool this Summer

The drastic (but very welcome) rise in temperature this week has led to small changes in daily routine. Going out for exercise feels torturous under the glaring heat; working at a desk feels uncomfortable in the sticky humidity. BBC Weather has reported that this sweltering heat is the hottest August we have seen in 17 years, as temperatures have reached around 36° Celsius. Finding motivation in a heatwave and within a pandemic seems like a Herculean task. It is clear that “productivity levels have slumped as the heat affects the nation’s diet, routine and sleep patterns” (The Independent). However, small but key changes can be made to accommodate for any weather, but specifically the British summer.

 

Eat Cool to Stay Cool – Surprisingly, eating spicy food will cool you down through inducing you to sweat more. A recent Independent article spoke to nutritionist Daniel O’Shaughnessy about other foods that can help beat the heat, such as soup, spinach, and turmeric for its anti-inflammatory effects. Although soup is a traditional winter dish, O’Shaughnessy speaks about the benefits of its consumption specifically in the evenings. Another easy hack to stay cool is to drink lots of water – infused with cucumber, melon, or celery for taste. Dehydration is definitely a possibility in this heat, so it is important to keep drinking water (or hot drinks, they help too) throughout the day.

 

Sponge and Cool – A study conducted at the University of Sydney, as reported by Huffington Post, suggests that dabbing water to your chest, legs, back, and arms can increase comfort in extreme heat. This is a useful trick to use when you are studying or doing zoom tuition over the summer holidays. Taking small breaks to hydrate and apply water prove to be most effective.

 

“The study’s results, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found applying water to these areas of the body improved comfort during a heatwave, in addition to lowering cardiovascular strain and reducing the rate of dehydration.” – HuffPost

 

Check your Setting – It can be difficult to find a spot to chill, literally, when your house lets a lot of sunlight in. To keep rooms as cool as possible, shut your curtains or blinds when you’re not in the room. Sometimes, it is cooler outside so adhere to social distancing and find a shady spot in a nearby park.

 

There are rare and few moments where we get weather that resembles anything close to tropical so make the most of the sunshine, with home barbeques, socially distanced picnics, or just good old-fashioned water fights. Enjoy the weather!

Expand your Reading List to Expand your Mind

Lists are to students, what traffic is to drivers. Notoriously unavoidable and inevitable in day-to-day life. Back-to-school stationary lists, homework to-do lists, and shopping lists – The list of lists can go on and on. Despite their pedantic reputation, lists have been proven to be a powerful tool to increase productivity as they display all the items clearly, ensuring nothing is forgotten. However, there is one list in particular, that we are all familiar with: the traditional reading list.

Receiving an annual or termly reading list may not seem like a momentous moment, in that it is typical of academic institutions to enforce literary requirements. Specific books are integral to a year’s syllabus and curriculum, so it may often feel as though reading is a chore or another task to finish in an endless list. But now amid the summer months, I wanted to explore the various benefits of reading for pleasure – when one can go beyond just academic obligation. The rough definition of ‘reading for pleasure’ is as follows; freely choosing the reading or enthusiastically continuing reading after the respective material is assigned. The common factor is enthusiasm. When reading can be seen as a hobby rather than a chore, it can unlock a whole new deeper meaning behind the discipline itself. Reading promotes a sense of empathy, where the reader naturally aligns their emotions with that of the complex characters presented in the plot. Reading also has the power of metaphorical transportation; we can depart from our four walls, our situation, to different historical worlds of fantasy or mystery. In a research essay exploring the benefits of ‘pleasure reading’ on academic success, Whitten writes:

“Many educators encourage their students to read outside of the classroom in order to increase reading comprehension, vocabulary, general knowledge, and cultural awareness; however, research indicates that pleasure reading may have a greater influence on a child’s overall academic performance than their socio-economic background-” (pg. 48)

I find that one of the biggest advantages of pleasure reading is that the reader can determine their own pace, and there is no better setting for this than over the summer holidays. Schools, English tuition, private tuition, or other academic environments have to press time constraints in order to follow a schedule. Reading for fun calls for independence in time scheduling, pace, and location. With lockdown measures still in place, one can get creative in finding cosy reading spots around the house.

 

So, I urge students, parents, and everyone to try qualitative not quantitative reading, to explore new genres, work from modern authors, and classic texts. Below are links to more lists – ones that don’t have the usual time pressure – for you to read and enjoy this summer.

100 ‘Must Read’ Books for All Ages:

https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/2018/100-must-read-classic-books/

 

Must Read Books for 9-12-year-olds:

https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/children/2019/apr/must-read-books-for-9-12-year-olds.html

 

References: Whitten, C., Houston, S.J., & Labby, S.A. (2016). The impact of Pleasure Reading on Academic Success.

-Ketki Mahabaleshwarkar

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