Beyond the beach: five ideas for self-improvement over the summer

Students of the University of New York in Prague have exactly five weeks until the fall semester begins—and those precious summer days will just fly past if all you do is sleep and party! Here are a few more interesting things that you could try out before having to immerse yourself in your studies again.

 

Take cooking classes

Whether cooking is a newly discovered interest or something you have thought of trying for years, there’s no better time to learn. Cooking opens your eyes to what exactly is in your meal and how you eat it and is one of the most valuable skills you can acquire. Learning how to cook your own meals can diversify your menu and positively influence your health, and understanding the process can help you make better choices when you eat out.  

 

Learn a new language

Of course, six weeks isn't enough to learn a new language, but it is a perfect amount of time to get started. Six weeks of practice will take you pretty far, and it will be easier to continue after the school year begins because you will have laid down a foundation to build on. Learning a foreign language is one of the most effective and practical ways to keep your mind sharp, increasing the cognitive abilities of your brain. Moreover, learning a new language can foster understanding between people of all political persuasions and nationalities. It’s a step we can all take to move our society towards a more open mentality.

 

Clean up your online presence

The image you put out to the world is extremely important when you are a young graduate.

Everybody knows that potential employers will go beyond your LinkedIn page to Google, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in order to look for more information about you—so it is in your best interest to make sure that they will only find what you would like them to see. The end of the summer break is the perfect time to go through every one of your social media profiles and ensure that any content that could jeopardize your professional credibility is permanently deleted. Of course, it is fine to have some photos from social events on your Facebook and Instagram but make sure they don’t show anything too personal. It would be a good idea to look through your old posts and delete anything troublesome you might have said in the past. While you’re on it, don't forget to strengthen your privacy settings, as this is also an essential part of maintaining a professional online image.


Improve your reading skills

The following tips could help you to improve your reading skills for the school year.

Don’t worry—we’re not going to bore you with the speed-reading techniques that were prevalent in the 1990s.

  • Browse through a book

Instead of reading the text in detail straight away, first pay attention to the headings, highlights, images, charts, models, and examples.  This type of preview provides information on the book’s objectives and main arguments.

 

  • Try reading the part you don't understand aloud

If you are stuck at a complicated, ill-written or tedious passage, reading it aloud can often help you visualize the concepts it conveys.

 

  • Highlight

Choose different marker colors (or symbols, if you are using a pencil) for unfamiliar quotes, names, dates, places, and words. Mark “mini scene changes”, new points in the discussion, and new characters entering the scene.

 

  • Review key terms

It’s good to do a ten-minute review immediately after you stop reading, to ensure the quality of your comprehension and note-taking.  In general, the more notes you have, the better you will remember the concept.

 

  • Discuss what you just have read (even with yourself)
Imagine that you have to communicate the central ideas of the text to someone who has not read it. Explain it in your own words, and discuss where you feel your comprehension is lacking.

 

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is a beneficial habit to have while studying, due mainly to its role in stress reduction. Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment. Mindfulness improves mental and physical health by helping to relieve stress, lower blood pressure and improve your sleep quality. Mindfulness gives the mind a break from the fixation on discursive thinking, most of which is self-focused. You will be pleasantly surprised at how refreshing it is to focus on your awareness of your surroundings, instead of being preoccupied with your inner monologue.

 

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