At this point in the semester, the only two words more exciting than spring break are summer vacation. Sadly, my spring break is over and that only leaves me with the prospect of summer to look forward to as I grind out essays and study for exams. Somewhere between my fantasies of summer vacation, I forgot the reality of having to return to my parent's home for three months. I realized it was time for a game plan. From one college student to another, here are seven things to keep in mind when you return home for summer vacation.
1. The Rules
Cry now, accept it later. There will be rules when you return home. Whether or not they are explicitly stated like, "Don't throw any crazy parties while I'm gone," or implied like, "The food in the fridge is for everyone in the family," it will take time to readjust to the (crazy) demands of parents. The best way to prepare for this starts with a conversation. Make it your business to talk to your parent(s) about household rules. Ask about a curfew, friends you can have over and even what room you'll sleep in when you return home. Don't make any assumptions because your parent(s) may still remember you as the high school senior who left last summer and it's up to you to reconcile those differences. A conversation allows for a mean of compromise and builds an understanding between you and your parent(s). However, fair warning: not everything will end in compromise.
2. The Questions
"Where are you going?" "When are you going to sleep?" and, "Who were you on the phone with all night?" are all questions that I immediately want to answer with a, "none of your business" and a side-eye. Still, I know my parents and they don't "play that," as my mom loves to remind me on a daily basis. If my parents ask a question, I better have a five-star answer and a polite smile on my face, too. As a college student, it's difficult going back home to what seems like twenty questions when college gives you the space to come and go as you please. Just remember that your parent(s) ask these questions because they care about your well-being so just grin it, bear it and keep in mind that the summer only lasts a few months.
3. The Chores
Sure, we do chores(ish) in college. We clean our rooms and sometimes do laundry but nothing to the extent of the chores from our childhood. When returning home for summer vacation your parent(s) might have this wild expectation that you still remember how to operate a vacuum. There's really no way around this one. It's best to get reacquainted with dusters, vacuum cleaners and sorting laundry by color.
4. The Rest Of The "Family"
Your parent(s) won't be the only adults who get under your skin. After returning home from summer vacation, great-aunts, long-lost cousins and old neighbors will suddenly make a guest appearance to ask about your time in college. The questions will all follow the same, generic pattern: "Do you love college?" "How are the parties?" and my favorite, "Did you get all A's?" Always keep your responses truthful, but it wouldn't hurt to keep that time you ate an entire pint of ice cream to yourself.
5. The High School "Friends'"
Now I'm not talking about friends from high school you keep in contact with, the friends who ask, "How did the semester go for you?" and the ones who somehow seemed to remember to wish you a happy birthday. No, I'm taking about the high school "friends" who you haven't spoken to since high school graduation or that college farewell party. Much like "the rest of the family," they are bound to pop back into your life and expect a camaraderie to fall neatly into place. Avoid bitterness at all costs because there's no need to start conflict. Instead, evaluate the friendships worth rekindling and the ones whose fires have burned their last ember. Don't let anyone guilt you into a friendship, especially if they are toxic.
6. The Escape
Find an outlet, because sitting at home for three months will drive the typical college student crazy. A job, an internship or a gym membership are a few excuses to leave home for a few hours. Besides getting an escape, these are all productive ways to deal with stress and possibly build your resume. However, caution against jamming your summer schedule with responsibilities — it is still summer vacation after all. A good middle ground is finding a seasonal job like camp counseling or life guarding that still allows for free time during weekday nights and weekends. If the job or internship hunt is a flop, return to the list of things you swear you would do if you only had more time and actually do them.
7. The Benefits
While I've warned, advised and reminded you of the people and circumstances you'll encounter after returning home for summer vacation, there are still benefits. First and most importantly, the home-cooked meals. Even if you don't come home to dinner freshly cooked every evening, there's an actual stove, oven and full sized fridge you can use to cook meals you don't have to order from a menu. Then there's the bed. Most college students downsize from a king, queen or full size bed to a twin XL bed. Returning to the throne of your childhood bed will be a great reunion for your back and sleep schedule. The greatest perk of all: no more eight a.m. classes, nine a.m. classes or class in general. Oh, and I suppose it doesn't hurt to see your cherished family, friends and pets.
While it may seem like your friends and classmates have it all together with their tidy summer plans to travel across the country, work for a prestigious company or party until the sun rises, it's alright to return home too. The comparison game is no fun and frankly, it's unrealistic. We are all college students trying to navigate through this new realm of adulthood and if home is where you land, then make the best of it, grow from it and mostly importantly, prepare for it.
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