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How to make the most of your summer as a college student

July 25, 2022
Lake Forest College

The mention of summer conjures images of relaxing in the sun, traveling, and reposing on the beach (we have one of those!), but when it comes to making the most of summertime as a college student, there is no shortage of options.

Most students find that there’s plenty of time to relax and participate in some thrilling experiences that not only enrich the warmer months, but also pave the way for greater opportunities after graduation.

At Lake Forest College, we’re lucky to offer students a wealth of options for summer enrichment. Our students can live and study in Chicago, go abroad, intern, complete high-level research, and more.

In this article, you’ll read about:

Make it a summer in Chicago—and live there

It’s no secret that our students love leveraging our proximity to the third-largest city in the US for fun weekend and evening excursions downtown, but did you know that we also have a residential program in Chicago?

ACTIVATE is the summer version of our popular semester-long In The Loop program. Throughout ACTIVATE, students live in The Flats, our residence in the heart of Chicago, take classes on our urban campus, and intern in the city. Think of it as something kind of like study abroad (Chicago is such a huge city that it CAN feel like another world sometimes), but you’re still close to campus! ACTIVATE is more than just a wellspring professional development opportunity; it’s also a way for students to practice adulting.

Jennie Larsen, Director of the Center for Chicago Programs at Lake Forest, explained just how valuable of an experience ACTIVATE is: “Students who pursue and participate in ACTIVATE and In The Loop show a real commitment to that personal and professional growth, whether they recognize it or not,” Larsen said. “They are getting career experience at their internships, but they are also learning how to budget, grocery shop, and get around the city.” 

Matthew Carey ’23 is interning as a program assistant at WorldChicago this summer. “ACTIVATE has given me so much independence that isn’t as easy to find on campus,” he said. “It has shaped my outlook on the future and given me confidence in my ability to manage my life post-graduation. I am looking forward to building connections with people in Chicago that will benefit me as I begin looking toward a career in the city after graduation.”  

When ACTIVATE students aren’t interning or taking classes, they have the freedom to explore the city and make the most of the exciting bustle of summer in Chicago. Summer is a gorgeous season for a beautiful city—oh, yeah—Chicago was recently recognized as the second most beautiful city in the world, and our ACTIVATE students get to experience why firsthand.  

Make it abroad

For students looking to get even further from campus over the summer, we offer a variety of study abroad options. Studying abroad in the summer rather than for a full semester offers a lower upfront cost and greater flexibility for students, especially those who are double majoring and need to make every class on campus count.

Going abroad will push you out of your comfort zone. It expands your academic, cultural, and social understanding.

Our summer study abroad program offers more than classes; students can also opt to intern and gain professional experience working abroad.

Serenah Quiroga ’23, a neuroscience and psychology double major, is spending her summer on the Italian coast. “I have absolutely loved being abroad in Sorrento, Italy so far and feel that it has allowed me to explore new cultures and languages, meet lots of new people, and learn lots of new things about myself, including a new sense of independence and love for travel,” Quiroga said. “It has opened my eyes to the customs and traditions of Italians, which can help me understand how to treat patients from different backgrounds within the medical field in the future.”

Quiroga is also midfielder on the Lake Forest College women’s varsity soccer team, Vice President of Marketing for Alpha Phi, and President of Synapse, the College’s neuroscience club.

“My favorite part has been the ability to travel all over with ease because of accessible transportation and cities so close to each other,” Quiroga explained. “I feel incredibly lucky to be able to live on the coast of Italy and can’t wait to see what else is in store for the rest of my time here.”

Allie Olson, Director of the Global Engagement Office, says that students who study abroad make friends while expanding their careers and social networks. “Going abroad will push you out of your comfort zone,” she said. “It expands your academic, cultural, and social understanding.”

Going abroad places students in a new context that challenges them to grow, helping set them up for success and enrich their lives with new experiences.

Make an impact with high-level research over the summer

Gaining high-level research experience early in an undergraduate career is uncommon at most schools, but at Lake Forest College, it’s our way of operating. We prioritize research early on in an academic career by allowing students to participate in the Richter Scholar Program the summer after their freshman year.

Through the program, students partner with a faculty member and assist on research. This year, projects include “Linguistic practices, education, and development in multilingual Africa” with Associate Professor of Education and Chair of Education Desmond Odugu, “Molecular mechanisms of injury-induced neurodegeneration” with Assistant Professor of Biology Rebecca Delventhal, and “Observe, collect, draw!” with Associate Professor of Art Tracy Taylor, among others.

Thomas Mboya ’25 participated in Professor of Music Don Meyer’s Richter project, “Music composition bootcamp.” “What I found most valuable about participating in Richter was the relationships I was able to forge with faculty and fellow Richter scholars,” Mboya said. “The project got me more interested in making electronic music and music production. This something I hope to do more of in the future.”

The Richter Scholar Program prepares students for high-level graduate research and engaging careers beyond the College. Alumnus Paul Jones ’17 is pursuing a PhD in molecular cell biology at Washington University in St. Louis and was recently awarded the prestigious Young Investigator Award from the Children’s Tumor Foundation. A 2014 Richter Scholar, he credits the program with his current successful career trajectory: “I would not be in the same spot I am now without the deep level of research experience I got through the Richter Scholar Program.”

Make strides toward a degree by taking summer classes

We can’t forget to mention summer classes, which are a great way to stay plugged into academic success over the summer without the stress of a full course load. Summer classes are a great way to get ahead on credits in a shorter window of time. This can be especially useful for students aspiring to double major.

Our summer options offer students flexibility with remote and in-person options in four sessions across the summer. Incoming students and visiting students are also welcome to enroll in our summer classes.

Make steps toward a career with a summer internship 

Interning over the summer is a great way to establish a foundation for career success after college. With an internship during the summer months, students can spend more time on-site learning about the field. This can help establish robust networking relationships and give learners a feel for pulse of the industry. 

Mauricio Calderon Castro ’24, a double major in environmental science and economics with a minor in French, is currently interning at the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies’ (PSEG ISS) Green Teams at Montclair State University in New Jersey. Through the internship, Calderon Castro is learning to survey, research, analyze, and report on sustainability projects for partner organizations. 

Castro’s own interest in urban planning makes this experience valuable. “I have had resume writing training, public speaking training, equity and inclusion training, and training in all things that are relevant for sustainability and the workforce,” Calderon Castro said. “It has been great to have this taste for what it is like to work with people from diverse backgrounds and specialties toward the same goal.” 

Castro’s experience has also allowed time for team building, skill enrichment, and leisure trips to New York City on the weekends: “I have been learning so much, but I also still get to really enjoy my summer.”  

Summer internships are an ideal way for students to expand their resumes in an environment where employers are increasingly interested in students with prior internship experience.

A summer internship also offers the flexibility to live at home, on campus, or experience a new environment altogether. (Psst—we also offer internships through ACTIVATE and the possibility to intern abroad!) 

Senior Associate Director of Internships Jen Lazarus explained how a summer internship can help set students apart. “Summer internships provide students with the unique opportunity to gain professional, real-world experience with the option to earn credit and/or satisfy their Experiential Learning requirement,” Lazarus said. “Students have the benefit of additional time to devote to a summer internship. Summer internships are an ideal way for students to expand their resumes in an environment where employers are increasingly interested in students with prior internship experience.” 

Interning provides students with experience that sets them apart after graduation. According to Forbes, students completing a paid internship receive a job offer at the completion of the internship 60 percent of the time. On average, students who complete an internship increase their chances of a job offer by 16 percent.  

“Through the Gorter Family Career Advancement Center’s summer internship program, students not only build career readiness, but they also have the opportunity to further clarify their career interests,” Lazarus said. “Students are encouraged to reflect on how they are applying the valuable skills they learn through their liberal arts coursework to their internship and how to translate those skills and experiences to their next internship or job opportunity.” 

Make a difference in the world with Projects for Peace 

Students can make a tangible difference in the world and spend time abroad through Projects for Peace, an initiative that identifies and supports peacebuilders and changemakers on our campuses across the country.

Projects for Peace grants 100 or more student leaders $10,000 to develop innovative, community-centered, and scalable responses to the world’s most pressing issues. Students spend the summer enacting solutions and making global connections.  

This summer, neuroscience majors Amanda Grassel ’23 and Tracey Nassuna ’23 are traveling to Uganda to help support efforts to destigmatize Parkinson’s Disease. Their project, “Fighting the Stigma: Parkinson’s Disease,” will enable them to aid Ugandan organization Parkinson’s Si Buko, which translates to “Parkinson’s is not witchcraft,” in providing education to dispel myths that Parkinson’s is the result of witchcraft rather than a debilitating neurodegenerative disease.

Grassel and Nassuna in Uganda

“Our primary goal is to educate people to combat that stigma,” Grassel said. Grassel and Nassuna will travel to clinics across Uganda to support Parkinson’s Si Buko’s efforts.

Director of the Global Engagement Office Allie Olson is always excited to see what projects students put together to make an impact on the world. “It’s so amazing to see what projects students develop and the impact they have,” Olson said. “It’s a great way to spend the summer. It goes to show how one person can make a lot of change.”

Make advances in medical research through the RFU Summer Scholars Program 

Students with an interest in medical research are excited to take part in the Lake Forest College–Rosalind Franklin University Summer Scholars Program. This program allows 15 to 20 Lake Forest College students at any stage of their undergraduate career to conduct up to 10 weeks of paid research as RFU summer scholars. 

The RFU Summer Scholars Program is the original partnership initiative that connected Lake Forest College and RFU, which is located just 10 minutes away from campus by car or train. 

Helena Blumenau ’23 was an RFU Summer Scholar in 2021. Her passion for psychology was ignited after her experience working in a psychology research lab, and she ended up changing her career trajectory based on her experience. 

“I was a premed student before my RFU Summer Scholar experience. I was placed in a lab dedicated to researching gender and sexuality minorities and the health disparities in those groups,” Blumenau said. “At the time, I wasn’t majoring in psychology, but my time working in Dr. Brian Feinstein’s lab made me want to become a psychologist.” 

The experience helped her uncover a new passion, and now Blumenau is a double major in neuroscience and psychology. She will be applying for PhD programs in clinical psychology this fall.  

All participants have gained exceptional professional mentors among the faculty at RFU, a graduate health professions university. Each student works in a specific medical school professor’s lab and carries out original medical research in the areas of cell and molecular pharmacology, neuroscience, cell biology and anatomy, biochemistry and molecular biology, pathology, microbiology and immunology, physiology and biophysics, psychology, medicinal chemistry, and more.   

Not only is this program a great way to learn valuable research skills over the summer, it is an excellent opportunity for undergraduate students looking to strengthen their candidacy for medical schools.  

Exploring options for summer opens up a world of opportunity that not only helps make the summer impactful, memorable, and exciting, but also lays a path to future success.  

So many options! All that’s left to decide is how you are going to make it this summer.