Winter break is meant to be a time when you can kick back, relax, and not have to worry about assignments and deadlines. But relaxing doesn’t necessarily mean binge-watching shows all day for the entire break. Sure, maybe for the first 2-3 days of break, but not the entire 3-5 weeks. It slows down your brain, throws you severely off schedule, and doesn’t really do anything for you in the long run (unless you’re watching Grey’s Anatomy – then you become a self-proclaimed doctor in the long run). Instead, why not try to find something fulfilling to do? Here are a few suggestions of things you can do right from home!
1. Learn a programming language
Oh gosh, this guy’s trying to recruit me to nerd camp. No, really. Hear me out. Learning a programming language can be a very rewarding experience (programming in general is very rewarding – albeit frustrating). Even if your professional career, or college degree, has nothing to do with Computer Science or anything technology related, you can still have a really great time programming. And it really is for anyone, as long as you know the difference between a keyboard and a mouse, though I would argue even that isn’t necessary. Think of programming as playing with Lego blocks, except the Lego blocks are infinite and so are the possibilities – limited solely by your imagination, not any physical constraints (starting to feel like Iron Man already, aren’t ya?). Programming isn’t just about learning a (programming) language and coding cool things, it’s about honing a variety of problem solving skills that may not get rejuvenated very often, if you don’t spend most of your day solving technical problems. Now, if you’re a complete novice, you’ll come to see that there are many programming languages out there. Don’t let that intimate you. Start with either Java or C (the former is harder to grasp initially but gets easier as you progress; the latter is easier to grasp initially but gets slightly trickier as you progress), and let the winds of Computer Science carry your fingers gracefully across the keyboard. You can check out some free tutorials on learning Java here and C here. And just in case you’re not fully convinced yet, my main man Bill (you probably know him as Bill Gates) also agrees:
Learning to write programs stretches your mind, and helps you think better, creates a way of thinking about things that I think is helpful in all domains.” (Bill Gates)
2. Start a business
I know it sounds crazy, but your “business” doesn’t even have to be a real business and make money; it just has to be a “project” that can one day potentially be profitable (although calling it a business just sounds so much cooler than calling it a project). If you have an obvious skill that you think people would pay for, then awesome, now you just have to find your first customers. For example, if you’re really good at teaching Calculus, then find someone willing to pay you to teach them – and boom, you have a business! As always, your own circle – the people you know – is a great place to start, and websites like Craigslist can be very handy, too (be safe; there are some creepy people out there pretending to want to learn Calculus). If you don’t have a service you can offer, trying creating a product, building an app, starting a YouTube channel where you teach science or tell jokes (that hopefully people laugh at); really, the possibilities are endless. Also, it’d be great if your business made money, but that’s not the biggest priority now (if it was, I would just suggest getting a job or working more hours) – it’s making yourself critically think, evaluate situations, and make decisions that often arise when starting a new venture. Above all, it’s about finding something you’re passionate about and making it profitable. An intelligent, but psychopathic, villain once said:
If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” (The Joker)
3. Get ahead on next semester’s coursework
I know, I know. Gross. Why would I want to ruin my winter break with exactly what I’m trying to run away from: school. However, a great, self-proclaimed, uncertified, unpublished, and very handsome Philosopher named Ahmed Raza once said:
It is not the idea of learning, or formal education, that bothers so many – but rather the notion of learning against one’s will.”
In other words, looking over the same material during winter break stimulates a more positive response in your brain, as you’re doing it willingly and without any deadlines to worry about. Also, it can do wonders for your GPA, especially if you’re in college. Now, if you’re in high school, getting ahead isn’t too difficult: just look at the syllabus and start reviewing what your teacher plans to cover next semester. For college kids, it’s just a matter of finding your instructor’s web page online and reviewing slides, the textbook(s), or any other material that could be helpful. If you can’t find your instructor’s web page – or just want something more cohesive – then feel free to check out Coursera. They have a lot of free, online college level classes taught by professors, that you can go through at your own pace (of course, YouTube is always an option too). Remember, it’s not about going through all your instructor’s slide sets online, or reading the entire textbook, but rather maintaining a schedule in which you dedicate a set amount of time e.g. 1 hour / day and adhere to it. Not only will this make your coursework next semester easier, but it will help keep your brain awake and focused over winter break, as well as keeping you on somewhat of a schedule; so, come mid-January, your brain will have had made more mentally demanding decisions than just choosing what to watch next on Netflix. Look, if Bobby Jindal can run for President, you can dedicate one hour a day to keeping your brain active during the break.
I hope you do something awesome, or at least fulfilling, this winter break, and have a splurge of fun as well! Remember to work hard, play hard, then work even harder.
Until Next Time,