Lifeguard? Camp Counselor?: Positive benefits of fun summer jobs

Anna Daccache, Opinions Writer

I still vividly remember a conversation I had with another student here at Washington and Lee. It was spring term of my first year, and we were discussing how excited we were for summer vacation.

“So, Anna, what are you doing this summer? Where are you going to be working?”

The question was innocent enough, and I excitedly responded that I was going back to the camp I worked at the previous year to be the Head Tennis Counselor.

“Oh, well, that’s cute,” she responded rather condescendingly. “I’m excited to intern at the bank my dad works at. It will look great on my resume.”

I had to pinch myself from rolling my eyes. But such is life at Washington and Lee. When you attend a rigorous university full of intelligent, driven students, responses like this are par for the course. We push ourselves and oftentimes, don’t allow time to breathe. Summer is no longer about rest and time for yourself and family; it is about resume building. Or so we say. But that’s not true. First-Years are babies. I was 18, naive, ridiculously unqualified for anything and, after a whirlwind year, going home to something familiar sounded incredible.

Don’t get me wrong—my job was a nightmare. Trying to teach 15 six-year-olds how to play tennis was no small task. And the older campers honestly were much more difficult to deal with—I can’t even get started on the 13-year-old campers. However, going home at the end of the day, seeing high school friends on weekends—it was comfortable. But that’s besides the point.

The point is, what I did with my summer didn’t matter. If you want to go out and get a real, serious internship, do it. There’s nothing wrong with that. But there is nothing wrong with having a fun summer job, either. In fact, various recruiters I have spoken to have commented on how they were impressed that I showed I could be responsible for people besides myself. People often roll their eyes when they hear that I was a camp counselor, but trying to control over a dozen children at a time is one of the most difficult jobs someone can have. It takes an extraordinary amount of patience to deal with screaming kids all day, every day, for an entire summer. Having to be responsible for other people’s children, and making sure they are where they are supposed to be, forces you to be diligent. While the title isn’t fancy, the skills I obtained as a tennis counselor are transferable. But, I digress.

There is so much pressure to hit the ground running. I challenge you to stop, reflect and think about what you really want to do with your summer. The summer after your first year is one of the best times to have a fun job, travel or just do nothing if you so please. Work at an ice cream shop and then spend the rest of the time with friends and family. Because as college goes on, that opportunity for free time becomes limited. The people I have spoken to who had the best summer experiences were the ones who threw caution to the wind and did what they pleased. I had a blast working at camp, a friend of mine traveled around Europe, a guy I went to high school with spent the summer babysitting and countless other friends of mine were lifeguards, soccer coaches or even basketball referees. What jobs we had didn’t matter. Every single one of us went on to find good internship or research opportunities the following summer. No one questioned why we hadn’t spent the previous summer shadowing a doctor or interning with a bank.

Summer is for you. What you do with it should be your choice. And even if you aren’t a first-year, professional internships aren’t the only option. Keep an open mind. You just might have the best summer yet.