Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
February 6, 2023

This summer isn't a waste: how to make the best of lost opportunities

STEM Major Survival Guide

By JESSICA KASAMOTO | April 25, 2020



Kasamoto recommends that readers try learning new coding languages to pass time. 

Approximately two long, long months ago, I wrote a piece about looking for summer research and internships. A month ago, I wrote a piece about dealing with rejection from summer internships and making the best of a non-ideal summer. 

Those were simpler times — the good old days! Back when “corona” was either A) a far off entity that was scary, but far enough removed that we all just kind of “meh-ed” it and went on with our lives, or B) a brand of beer and nothing more. 

It is almost certain that the 120-nanometer long, non-living pathogen that has tarnished the word corona forever has disrupted your summer plans in some capacity. I think that it is high time we revisit this subject and hone in on how to make the best of this non-ideal summer in particular. 

What do you do when your internship is cancelled and you are left planless for the summer? 

The first thing to do is not panic. Sure, not having summer plans may be upsetting and disappointing, but if you’re worried and upset because of grad school, med school or law school admissions, then really, REALLY don’t be. Like I said before, one summer won’t make or break you, and that especially goes for the year with the pandemic that will undoubtedly be written into all the history books from now until forever. Harvard Medical School admissions will still be tough, but not entirely unreasonable — if they don’t cut us some slack for this summer in particular, I’d honestly be really, really surprised.

After you decide not to panic, there is still work to be done! Pandemic and all, there are still ways to make your summer worthwhile in some sense. 

To me, taking an online class is never a bad option, especially when an internship possibility is out of the picture. If you are a freshman, it is an especially good way to make room in your schedule in future semesters so you can take upper level courses earlier, or have more time for research or other things! If you’re a sophomore or junior, you can learn about something you’ve always been interested in or that may be helpful in the future. It doesn’t have to be a class through Hopkins if that doesn’t work financially; talk to your advisor about getting an online classes from another University approved for Hopkins credit. 

My next recommendation is specifically for you underclassmen — coding is a very good and productive quarantine activity. If you’ve never done it, aren’t confident in your skills or simply want to pick up a new language, now is the perfect opportunity. This doesn’t even have to be through an online class; you can easily find tutorials and videos online for free, so download the program and get started! 

If you are already proficient in computer languages, try to put your skills to good use. Try your luck by contacting computational labs and see if they’d be willing to let you do some remote work for them over the summer. There are even still some remote internship postings online; if you are feeling confident in your coding skills, apply for a few of those! I know it’s easy to think that chances may be slim, but you’ll never know until you try.

On that note, try to look for other online job opportunities. Online tutoring would be especially appropriate at this time, since many elementary, middle and high school students lost a big chunk of their school year, and parents may be using this summer as a time to make up for it. Check out some tutoring companies online (I’m sure many would be happy to hire an intelligent Hopkins STEM major like yourself), or fly solo — see if your mom’s friend’s sister’s kids are in need of a tutor this summer.

There are also other opportunities to make money online. Try freelance writing, teaching ESL or even proofreading online articles; get creative, search things up and find something that interests you. I know a lot of online jobs seem to be a lot less STEM-y and more English/Writing Seminars major-esque, but that can honestly be a good thing! Take off your lab coat, and brush up on those writing skills — they’re practical and will almost certainly come in handy later.

Volunteer work is another good opportunity to look for online. I know several people who have signed up to be a crisis-healthline worker; while this may not be a job suited for everyone, it’s definitely one way to make a difference if you’re up for the task. There are plenty of websites out there with a multitude of volunteer opportunities: proofread books for Project Gutenberg, translate documents and update Wikipedia pages through the Smithsonian website, record audiobooks for Librivox or become a translator through Translators Without Borders

Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone; find something cool and just do it! If you really think about it, there’s a good chance that you won’t have this kind of flexibility to just simply do cool things over the summer for a while.

Lastly, if the pandemic has really taken a toll on your life and you’re not feeling like doing anything new, that is okay too! Take care of yourself; Harvard Med School probably won’t reject you on the sole basis that you didn’t do enough during the summer of 2020. Whether you find something cool and “productive” to do or not, keep working on your mental health! That is an order! Bake cookies, watch Netflix, plant a garden or learn the guitar; the mope-y feelings are hard to overcome, but please, try to make yourself happy. If you’re feeling particularly down, reach out to others and make an effort to get the help you need.

This summer may not be the best one you’ve ever had, but it doesn’t have to be the worst. So sit back, relax, shelter in and wait for the storm to pass. Trust me — I know some days it feels like it never will, but those are the sad, quarantined brain chemicals talking, not the smart Hopkins student brain chemicals! Pandemics don’t last forever; we’ll be okay.

This is STEM major survival guide signing out for the 2019-2020 school year; hope you guys learned something (anything) from me this year, and I hope everyone has a happy, hopeful and healthy summer. 

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