There’s 104 Days of Summer Vacation…

At Stuyvesant, summer often doesn’t feel like summer. How can students reclaim that sense of youthful, sun-soaked bliss?

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Looking back on their time at Stuyvesant, there are quite a few conclusions that a graduated senior can draw from their summer experiences. Whether they are the most productive, stressful, or joyous periods of their lives, Stuyvesant summers will stand out from the rest.

For Emily Young-Squire (’23), there was a clear dividing line between childhood summers and the breaks that separated school years at Stuyvesant. “When I was younger, summer was the time when I would be able to travel with my family to visit aunts and uncles, and my grandmothers and great-grandmother,” Young-Squire recalled. The summers bracketing her high school years were considerably less family-oriented. “I always hated August in particular, because August meant that I had only one month left of summer to get my schedule together and do something impressive, which was super stressful,” Young-Squire said. Students might face this time-sensitive pressure to stand out before they’ve even taken a rest from working hard all school year.

This stress-inducing perception of a period meant for relaxation is shared by those who have only been at Stuyvesant one year. “Being at Stuyvesant has put on a subtle pressure to be more productive. To some extent, I’ve always wanted to do as much as I could to prepare for the upcoming year during the summer, but Stuy has intensified that,” sophomore Amanda Greenberg explained. Greenberg’s preparations for the start of the school year extend past getting ready for new classes. “It’s been about catching up on the books or activities that I know I won’t have time for during the year, while also mentally preparing myself for the landslide of work I expect to get,” Greenberg elaborated. Anticipation of massive workloads and packed agendas causes students to cram their summers as much as possible, even before their schedules are released. This mindset can extend the lifespan of stressors active during the school year, even though it aims to reduce stress by helping students feel more prepared.

Many students’ school years are filled not only with schoolwork but a variety of extracurricular clubs and projects; their summers reflect this medley of commitments. Still, not every student who commits vacation time to school-adjacent pursuits considers this investment to be a burden. Junior Sasha Ruinsky’s work as a director for the Stuyvesant Theater Community (STC) fall musical Anastasia began while summer vacation was still ongoing. Fortunately, the enjoyment Ruinsky garners from directorial work eases the pressure of having to actively check messages and conduct business during break.

Anastasia is filling up my mind like 18 hours out of 24 hours [of the day], which is nice because it’s something else to think about. This is probably my favorite part of STC—when it falls into your summer break, and winter break, and spring break,” Ruinsky reflected. “You become so immersed.” 

Some students might take on responsibilities that will help them work toward an end goal—whether it be a creative production, a website, or a piece of visual artwork. Summer vacation offers up a unique level of personal autonomy, and students should embrace this freedom, leaning into the activities they love and holding back from those they are tired of.

Of course, it’s hard to brush away the pressure to be as productive as possible over the summer. But the true pathway to a meaningful summer is both being cognizant of these voices and taking them with a grain of salt. “At a school like Stuyvesant, there’s obviously a huge emphasis on competition, and I think that creates a sense of obligation to spend summers doing ’important’ stuff at all times—which is bad for kids, because we need time to just be kids,” senior Alexander Hinchliffe said.

Greenberg echoed this sentiment. “Summer exists for a reason. You can take advantage of that time to get ahead, within reason. If you overdo it, then you lead yourself to burnout or make yourself more prone to burnout during the year,” Greenberg said. And while it can seem that everyone at Stuyvesant is navigating their own web of activities and internships over the summer, each student must decide for themselves what a healthy level of activity looks like, regardless of what everyone else appears to be doing.

One important insight that graduated seniors can offer is that a summer filled with accomplishments isn’t necessarily needed to be accepted into your dream college. Young-Squire, who is attending Georgetown University this fall, shared, “I am now an incoming [college] freshman who never did an internship in high school, even though a lot of people put a ton of pressure to have internships by the time you got to college. Honestly, I thought that my chances for a really good college were lost. Ever since I did [get in] without those internships and super impressive, exclusive opportunities, I think I have relaxed more and learned to appreciate and enjoy my one summer before college.”

Jerry Yang (’23) shared a similar perception of the summer after senior year: “[It was] actually [a] super fun summer, where I was constantly hanging out with [...] friends, to the point that by the end, we were slightly sick of each other.”

It is apparent that the summer after senior year sits in a different camp than those experienced between school years at Stuyvesant. However, genuine enjoyment and productivity do not need to be mutually exclusive. Often, those with the happiest summers are not the ones who either do everything or nothing at all, but that spend a reasonable amount of time simply doing what they enjoy—nothing more, and nothing less.