story | Pertina Seah, staff writer and Yip Jie Ying, Features Editor
photo | Serena Quay
Everywhere you go on campus these days, people are talking about their summer plans. Deadlines for Yale-NUS College’s Centre for International and Professional Experience (CIPE) summer opportunities are drawing closer. All around, people ask, “what are your summer plans?”—as though you need to have a summer plan, as though not doing anything would be an utter waste of one’s time! With each successive conversation, the pressure to do “something worthwhile” over the break gets higher.
13 out of 15 students interviewed by The Octant felt the pressure to make the most out of their summer break. “I want to get experience by interning or working in an industry related to my major,” said Al Lim ’19 about his main motivation for finding summer opportunities.
This sentiment is not just present among upperclass students upon whom the pressing consideration of future career prospects loom, but also among the first years. Grady Ng ’20 said that there is peer pressure to use the break productively, reinforced by people announcing their plans on social media sites like Facebook. He attributed this pressure to a “culture of busyness” prevalent not just in Yale-NUS, but across the generation in general.
Several other factors drive these sentiments, with personal ambition and the overwhelming range of available opportunities being two of the most common. Nathaniel Mah ’20 has a list of goals that he wants to achieve, including writing a musical, getting a diving licence and spending time with his family. “It is hard to do something sustained and still focus on personal things,” he said.
The number of CIPE opportunities offered results in a pressure to commit to something over the break. “The opportunities are there and you feel like it’s a waste if you do not make use of it. Not everyone gets opportunities waved in their face so there’s a pressure to take them,” said Ng. As of Feb. 7, 2017, 23 summer research opportunities and 109 internship opportunities are listed on Symplicity, Yale-NUS’s portal for opportunities.
That being said, not everyone lets peer pressure affect their own summer plans. Nina D’Costa ’19 decided to take a break from school last summer and wanted to “have a very relaxing, restful and fulfilling summer in a different way”. Unlike many others who spent their time on resume-building pursuits, her summer involved learning about fitness, working out at the gym, reading a lot and spending more time with her friends. Looking back, she said that it was a “personally very, very enriching” summer and she emerged from it feeling much happier and refreshed.
Several freshmen echoed D’Costa’s sentiment. Tng Yong Li ’20 and Christabelle Ong ’20 plan to unwind and relax over summer. Tng said “the whole semester has been super hectic and I think I deserve some time off to do nothing”. Ong said that the first-year summer would be the only time students can relax. Subsequent summers would become more intense since students would feel a more pressing need to look for internships and build their resume. Ong said her CIPE advisor supported her decision to relax over summer. “She reassured me that it was completely acceptable to do nothing this summer and that it does not matter as long as I know that there is nothing I’d rather be doing,” Ong said.
At the end of the day, even in the face of peer pressure from the college community, it is useful to take a step back to think about what one wants to achieve from the summer break and be personally comfortable with it. Most students interviewed recommended that one should only engage in summer activities if they are genuinely interested. Instead of being pressured into applying for different programmes just because everyone else is doing so, students should also consider taking time off to relax. Ong said, “choosing to rest this summer is exactly the same as choosing a great internship or travel opportunity, you choose it because there is nothing else you’d rather be doing and there is no shame in that.”