For three months in the summer, classes grind to a halt, students vacate campus in mass waves and boxes filled with textbooks collect dust in storage units. In response to incessant questions about their plans during the summer time off, students fire back a litany of impressive plans. A research position seeking the cure for cancer; a finance internship in New York; travels to far-off countries to do volunteer work with DukeEngage. Last year, 2,400 Duke students ventured to 75 nations across six continents to engage in service work. But amid the excitement for what summer holds in store, we take a moment to reflect on the value of the three-month hiatus and the opportunities it offers.

For most students, the 16-week break is anything but a break. The temporary cessation of essays and exams marks the start of demanding internships that begin before the sun rises and end long after it sets. Why the grueling, self-inflicted regiments? In today’s world, simply graduating with a degree, even from a top university, is not always enough to vie in the competitive job market. Work experience has become in many fields an unofficial graduation requirement for those seeking to enter the workforce after four years. Translated in the minds of ambitious Duke undergraduates, these expectations give rise to the mentality that summers are a time to get ahead—or rather, to stay apace. Far from a time to relax and recuperate, the three-month breaks should be spent bolstering the “work experience” subheading of already-packed resumes, networking and garnering stories for interviews down the road.

But summers need not be solely devoted to laborious preparations for the future. Amid the intense internships, research in labs or in the field and preparations for graduate school exams, summer is also a time for exploration. It is a time to, perhaps, read a book, take a road trip to someplace you’ve always wanted to visit, learn to cook a family recipe, or simply sit and enjoy the sun.

For those just beginning their college careers, it is a time to reflect on what the next few years will look like and what the ideal undergraduate experience would be. For those entering their last year, it is an opportunity to look back on the past three years—the lessons learned inside and outside the classroom, the friend next door from freshman year that you haven’t spoken to in three years, the things accomplished and those yet to be done—and to reflect both on the footprint you hope to leave behind and the one you will begin to form beyond the gothic walls.

Wherever your summer takes you, be it on the subway on the way to work or coasting down the seashore, we challenge you to take a few moments to reflect. There are 16 weeks in summer break—that’s 113 days, 2,712 hours—how will you be spending it?

Editor's Note: This editorial was written by members of staff rather than The Chronicle's independent editorial board.