When I was in my first year, I hadn’t considered doing a placement. All I was early waiting for (like everyone else is usually at this stage, I’m sure) was the summer and (most importantly) the heat. In my head, an ideal summer is going somewhere tropical and relaxing in the Sun having some BBQ skewers. Then an opportunity was presented where I had the chance to visit one of the most tropical destinations you could possibly think of; The Maldives. I wanted to acquire a PADI qualification and my parents thought it would be nice to go all out.
When I got back to University to start my second year, I was astonished at my course mates and all the amazing things that they had done and places they had been to during the summer. Some of them were helping out in molecular labs, some were gaining some hands on experience, my best friend did her dive master training and some even helped out reputable lecturers. It was then that I wished that I had made my summer a lot more productive. I wish I had given a little bit back while I was doing the taking. Saying that, I do not regret my summer activities because I was engaged in something I was passionate about. It truly is the stuff of dreams.
The main message I would like to highlight is that, as most of you know, the summer goes by very quickly and whatever it is that you have planned, make sure you see it happen and enjoy it to the fullest. But be sure to remember to bag in some sort of course related experience on the way. Experience is a good asset to have before you graduate to make yourself more employable.
I am personally not doing a placement year but I am aware that that is another way to gain the necessary experience. I do know of some third years and graduates who have either done a summer placement or a placement year, and have gone back to the same institute after graduation or during the summer of the year after, either for higher studies (a Master’s degree or a PhD) or for work again as the institute was willing to re-employ them. To cut a long story short, do not completely ignore summer and other opportunities that may be right for you. It is not that you can make it count. So, volunteer, work, take part and make a difference, and also gain some valuable experiences on the way.
You never know, some opportunities that come to you may help you grow as a person; and at the end of the day that’s what we’re all trying to do. So go knock on some doors because that’s what they are there for.