9 Productive Things To Do Between Semesters

The pandemic may have scrapped some options, like extensive travel, but there are still loads of productive (and fun) things to do between semesters.

We did it. We made it. Writing this I can only imagine the heroine/hero at the (almost) end of their quest, catching their breath after a particularly grueling battle with sea dwarves (whatever), or slog through twisted spaceship wreckage after crash landing on a distant planet. The Fall/Winter semester is over, but it was a long one.

The spring of 2020 blended with the summer, which blended with the winter (especially in Southern California where seasonal weather change is more a topic of conversation than an actual fact). The result: the long-winded feeling of walking many miles. We’re not quite exhausted, but we certainly feel like we’re trudging, aching for the finish line.

As folks head into winter break throughout the country, and as case numbers of COVID-19 infections rise dramatically, it looks like we are in, depending on where you find yourself, for another locked-down scenario. Travel, for the most part, is out of the question, unless you consider it so essential, or can afford to take the risk.

But there are still ways to be productive over the break, and more ways than one to define productivity. In this instance, I’m going to define it as some combination of self-care and self-worth, activities that will help you grow but won’t spread you too thin.

A woman reads a history book by a fireplace.

Learn a History

It sounds vague, but the idea is actually simple. Pick a topic or person you find interesting: Sam Cooke, Hollywood history, Dutch Tulip mania, anything, and read, watch, and listen to whatever you can about the subject. Become engrossed in the topic; watch movies set in that era, read fiction and nonfiction, listen to that era or individual’s music. Check out a podcast or two about it. The point is to fully immerse yourself in a subject or idea outside of right here, right now.

A dog, wearing a beret, tries to paint a canvas.

Explore a New Medium

Maybe you love music but haven’t tried podcasts. Try them over winter break. Perhaps you’re really into movies, but want to dabble in painting. The idea is to try a new medium outside of your normal comfort zone. Find back issues of magazines online or get a subscription to a magazine you’ve always wanted to read and indulge in an afternoon (or two) of coffee and glossy print. There are literally dozens, if not hundreds of options for discovering a new medium to fill the hours.

A men smells his spatula as he cooks.

Learn to Cook Your Favorite Restaurant Dish

You like a certain dish at a certain restaurant but have never tried to replicate it yourself. Do it over winter break. Try different recipes for the same dish (variations will abound I promise you); put your own spin on it or make it with your roommates and family.

A wife, husband, and daughter video chat with a grandpa

Perform An Act of Kindness

The world could use a little more kindness right now. Pick an act or two of kindness and resolve to do it as many times as possible over winter break. Take out the trash for your roommates so they don’t have to; give the right-of-way to a car ahead of you; call a relative you usually don’t talk to for a conversation. For more options check out this blog on Acts of Kindness you can do during the pandemic!

A young man writes in his personal journal.

Start a Personal Journal

Journaling can be a great way to put thoughts on paper; it’s like getting out of your own head, but still private. It’s also great for mental health and well-being. A personal journal can be filled with poems, verse, fiction, dreams, ideas, and even photographs if you’re not much of a writer. Make sure to keep your older journals as you fill them up; that way ten or twenty years down the line you can open an old one up, maybe even 2021’s, and laugh at your younger self a bit.

A young woman cleans out her closet.

Clean Out Your Closet

The world has a lot of stuff. My guess is you’ve accumulated so much clothing, most of which you don’t even wear anymore. Clean out your closet, but don’t throw it all out. Save the clothes for a trip to Goodwill; or, if you’re enterprising and patient, start up a little Depop shop with your old clothes. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, as they say.

A young woman changes the light bulbs.

Fix Something (Chores Included)

I can bet you’ve been meaning to take a look at that overhead fan in your basement or change all the light bulbs in your house, or deep clean your kitchen. Whatever the case may be, there’s always something that needs fixing or cleaning, and take a day (or three) over break, put on some good tunes, and jam out as you work.

A young woman has found a scholarship. She is very happy.

Look for Scholarships

As we’ve discussed here before, there are thousands of good scholarships every year that simply don’t get enough applicants. Check out a previous blog on the subject, and use it as a primer to find a few solid scholarships for yourself for the coming semesters.

Some young people play cards together in front of a sign that reads "Device Free Zone." Their phones are stacked in front of the sign.

Go Screen Free For a Day

Not to get all grandpa-esque at you, but kids these days should take a moment to put down the phones, the TikToks, the tablets, and go a day without screens. (Whoa, where did that grandpa’s voice come from? Am I haunted by a deceased octogenarian? Spooky.) In any case, make like an airplane and store away your devices and lift off for a day of good ol’ fashioned fun: print media, meditation, playing cards (nothing beats poker in this horrible gambler’s opinion), puzzles, board games, and maybe some music. That sounds like fun to me.

A mom and daughter play in an indoor makeshift tent at night.

Wrappin’ It Up

Whatever it is that you choose to do over winter break, do it with pride. It’s easy to get F.O.M.O., aka Fear Of Missing Out, which translates to thinking whatever your friends did was cooler than what you did, in this context at least.

Take pride in the shows you watched, the music you listened to, the food you ate, the cartoons you drew, etc. And if you’re really not pleased with yourself, then at least be proud of the fact that you recognize that you could spend your time better. Life’s too short to worry about that stuff; productivity just means you’re proud of what you did. That’s all.

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