5 useful things every undergrad should do to make the best of the holidays

It’s currently the term break for all university students, and you know what that means – finally getting to spend your days having fun (or, for some of us, doing all the fun things you’ve already been doing during the semester, but guilt-free). The holidays are definitely the time to relax and recharge after a long, stressful term, but given that four weeks or so is a pretty long time, you might feel like you want to channel some party time towards more -cough- productive activities. After all, uni might be the last time we can really enjoy ourselves without adult responsibilities looming over our heads, but it’s also our last stop to gear up before we enter the workforce proper.

So if you’re looking to make the best of your hols, here’re some simple, yet useful things you can do to get yourself future-ready:

1. Broaden your skillset

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Job markets are volatile these days – having a broad, diverse range of skills can put you a step ahead of your peers when it comes to adapting to different roles and responsibilities. You can use the holidays to brush up on general office skills like Microsoft Office, with tons of online tutorials specifically designed to help complete beginners at, say, Microsoft Excel.

In addition to general skills, here’s a savvy way to find out what skills you might want to pick up: talk to older friends and relatives or look through job postings to find out what your dream job(s) require. Sometimes, these skills will not be directly related to the main role, which means it’s hard to anticipate them without doing some research. For example, from personal experience, I’ve found that a lot of writing jobs require me to know Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. Once you’ve figured out what you want to learn, head over to MOOC platforms like Coursera or just look up free online tutorials to get started!

2. Read books that broaden your horizons

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Books are man’s best friend – they inspire us, enrich us, and open up different perspectives to us. Though most of us are probably sick of doing endless readings during the sem, the holidays are a great time to get reacquainted with reading for pleasure.

If books that help you to find happiness and purpose in life sound like your cup of tea, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl and James Allen’s As A Man Thinketh are classics to start you off. Or maybe you’re looking for career-oriented books that can guide you in finance and productivity – what about George Clason’s The Richest Man in Babylon or Timothy Feriss’ The Four Hour Work Week?

Of course, the types of self-improvement books I’ve suggested above are just the tip of the iceberg. By setting aside just an hour each day to read, you’ll find that by the end of the break, you’ll have built up a huge amount of knowledge that’ll stand you in good stead for the future.

3. Explore hobbies that fulfil you

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You might already be in a bunch of CCAs or hall activities, but it’s also worth taking time to explore hobbies outside school that you can continue once you graduate. The key is to pick up hobbies that not only help you destress, but can also give you a sense of fulfilment and meaning. Whether it’s woodcrafting, volunteering or water skiing, finding sustainable hobbies is important to help us stay sane and prevent burnout.

By venturing outside school to find your tribe of fellow hobbyists, you get to learn how to mix around with people of different age groups and backgrounds. And it’s even possible that the hobbies you love might turn into an alternative career path!

4. Take some time to think about your future

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Term time is notoriously hectic for students, where most of us go on autopilot busy mode to cope with all the commitments and work that just keep piling up. But there’ll soon come a time after university when we don’t have such structured timetables to keep us on track in life. The holidays offer just the leisure time we need to think about our direction in life, and to plan out our ambitions and dreams. It’s the best time to have heart-to-heart talks with friends, travel around and be inspired by people with diverse lives, and do some soul-searching about what you want in life.

5. Connect with people who can help you along

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I think most of us reticent Singaporeans would agree that it’s sometimes hard to reach out to others for help, but connecting with others can be a great way to meet interesting people and pick their brains for advice. Your university is definitely a good channel to do so – in NUS, for example, we have the Centre for Future-Ready Graduates (CFG), which offers students the chance to set up appointments with career advisors to talk about their personal development.

Besides that, there’re tons of ways to get conversations going with the trendsetters and trailblazers you admire. You can set up a LinkedIn account and make connections with them, for instance, or pick their brains for advice on sites like Quora and Medium. As long as you show genuine interest, there’s no need to be afraid of being annoying, and you might gain a few lifelong friends and mentors along the way.

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