UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSIONS at WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY in ST. LOUIS

Summer Trips and Productivity

Every September, I always think about how summer felt so long and so short at the same time. In a twist, I had an internship the summer after my freshman year, but I did not have one this summer. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t make the most out of my time at home.

Almost as soon as I returned home, I left again for a long-awaited vacation. My family and I traveled to Los Angeles as we do almost every summer to visit my grandparents and extended family. This year, however, we had a little extra planned. Just a few days after our arrival in California, we packed up again to start our West Coast bus tour. Essentially, we would hit most of the major West Coast attractions in just seven days, travelling by bus every single day and sleeping in a different hotel every night.

It was intense, to say the least. To travel from Los Angeles to Wyoming and back in one week, with stops every single day to see major attractions, I was perpetually exhausted. To make matters worse, we had to wake up at 5am every single day, and we’d often reach our hotel for the night at 9-10pm. I can barely wake up for my 8am classes, so you can imagine my struggle! Despite my fatigue, the sights we saw were absolutely worth it.

Over the course of this bus tour, I visited seven different states, 4 smaller canyons and deserts, Salt Lake City and the Great Salt Lake, Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone National Park. Just listing it out like this feels like it would never be possible to see all of those in one week, but somehow we did it. Of all of those places, I have to say that the Grand Canyon was my favorite. It sounds incredibly cheesy, but there’s nothing like standing at the precipice of a cliff, looking down at the one small river that somehow carved this huge landscape. Pictures may be impressive, but it can’t match being there in person, seeing the gaping ravine and how the light dips into the rock walls.

A view from the edge of the Grand Canyon

A view from the edge of the Grand Canyon

Yellowstone was just as extraordinary. I got to see Old Faithful erupting right before my eyes, just a short distance away. The colorful pools and boiling mud were fascinating to watch, and I could have stayed there much longer if we hadn’t had a schedule to keep. The drive to Yellowstone was almost as beautiful as the park itself as well. I never put much thought into Utah and Idaho, but their landscape is some of the most gorgeous I’ve ever seen. It was quite literally picturesque, like something you’d see in an animated film or postcard, with shining creeks every several minutes and fields of the greenest grass I’d ever seen. It was a great contrast to the desert and red rocky landscape we had seen earlier in our trip.

Old Faithful!

Old Faithful!

I could write paragraphs and paragraphs of what I saw on this trip, but I must cut my waxing poetic short, because this post is about my entire summer and not just my one week trip! Even after my bus tour, my family and I remained in LA for 2 more weeks, and I must have gained at least 5 lbs from my cousin dragging me to the best restaurants and boba shops in the area. I drank bubble tea almost single day, if you can believe that.

When I finally returned home, I was hit with a dilemma: now what? I didn’t have a summer internship, so what could I do to be the most productive with my time? What finally ended up happening, almost by accident, was that I used my remaining 2 months of summer as a digital art bootcamp, so to speak. In sophomore year, I was forced to transition to work almost entirely in Photoshop, since the Adobe Suite is design industry standard. I was used to digitally painting in a different program, and switching to Photoshop for my classes was a difficult change. To bring my Photoshop painting skills up to par, I spent the next two months creating work almost every single day, which is a lot more difficult than it sounds. I devoted a good chunk of my days to practicing, treating it almost like a summer class for myself.

I also spent this summer setting up a synchronized system of social media accounts for my artwork, something that seems trivial and “millenial” but is actually incredibly vital for an artist’s career. Following the right people on twitter and tumblr, posting your work online consistently, building up a significant follower account: all of these are chances for potential employers to see your work.

In some ways, I think it was beneficial for me to have a completely free summer this year. I made dramatic improvements in my art and design skills, and I’m going into junior year much more confident in myself. At the same time, I could still relax and enjoy the last dregs of my free vacation time before adulthood fully consumes me. This summer was a good lesson for myself that not getting the perfect internship isn’t the end of the world and that I can still use my four months off of school to improve myself. I’m entering this year refreshed and armed with sharpened skills, and hopefully I can keep this up for this whole semester!