When Does Summer Begin?

Aligning work, family, and seasonal calenders. 

June 13, 2019

Has your summer already begun? Although summer in the northern hemisphere doesn’t officially begin until June 22, for many of us, summer semester started in May. What are your summer plans? For research/writing, time with family, home renovations, work, travel? What does a typical summer look like for you or is there no such thing as a typical summer? Share your plans below.

Lee Skallerup Bessette, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA

I’ve written about it before, but one of the hardest transitions we had to make as a family was moving from teaching positions to 12-month positions. It was mostly a challenge for our children, who were used to impromptu long trips back to Canada, or days where mom or dad would forgo the writing and research and planning just to take them someplace, or hang out at home. They are now 10 and 12, over summer camp, and old enough to travel alone. So, they’re going to Canada for three weeks, the first week in Montreal, where the grandparents will take them, leaving me alone for a nice little writing retreat, then off to Edmonton to the other set of grandparents and cousins. Summer for me doesn’t really start until the kids are out of school, especially now with the end-of-year activities (this past weekend was spent at a middle school for ballet recitals). For work, we’re into “summer project” mode as of last week, after our week-long faculty development event that we organize ends. As the kids get older (and we keep moving), the summers keep changing their complexion for our family, but the work still remains the same: keep writing, keep prepping, keep working.

Meg Palladino, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA     

As Director of Yale Summer Session, summers are the busiest time of the year.  The application opens in January, and by April, we are flat out in summer mode.  As soon as graduation is over, our summer staff moves in, and students arrive the following week.  Summer is blackout time for vacations. However, when it all ends, I take a late summer vacation with my family to Tunisia to recharge.  The days are filled with naps, great food, the beach, family and friends. I’m back at the end of August, in time to start planning for the next summer.

Mary Churchill, Boston University, Boston, MA, USA

“Summer” began the week of May 20. Campus is busy, but much quieter. The line at the Starbucks is manageable, and I can actually get a seat if I want to sit down and send a few emails. My calendar has open spaces for the first time in weeks. During the summer months, I usually focus on finishing up any outstanding work from the prior academic year while gearing up for the coming one. It’s a time of assessment, reprioritizing, and goal tweaking. It’s a time of deep work with stretches when I can really concentrate.

However, that’s my work life. My home life is on a different calendar. We are currently in the in-between space. This time between commencement (May 18 for me this year) - my marker of when the traditional academic year ends - and the end of my son’s academic year (June 19 for us this year) is always this strange liminal space when I feel like I am so ready for summer because it’s already low-key summer at work. Then I board the city bus at the end of the day and realize that the seasons have yet to change and the rest of the people in my life and the weather are slowly gearing up for summer. I come home and remember that we are in the middle of final exams and the hectic frenzy that those can create in the life of an 8th grader and his parents. By the end of next week, we will all be living in a Boston summer.

We usually go visit relatives in Mexico soon after my son finishes school for the year. We’ll head there later this month to hang out and relax and that’s when it will finally feel like it’s really summer - the calendar, the weather, vacation, and school schedules will all be in synch. Like Susan D. Blum, last week’s blogger, I also need a real break or retreat to pass from one season or year to another -  be it academic year or calendar year - and our family trip to Mexico has become that annual ritual for me. I will take several ebooks with me and spend the time reading, writing, swimming, and sleeping. I will force myself to stay away from email and give myself a break from work and other obligations. I am a bit of a workaholic and tend to work hard - sometimes too hard. Over the years, I have learned that I need to schedule these breaks to recover from the sprint work. I’ve already got another short break on the calendar in mid-August, right before the next academic year begins the first week of September.

Ernesto Priego, University of London, United Kingdom, still part of the European Union as I type this (sigh)

These views are my own and do not represent employers, students or colleagues. This will be a long entry because there’s a misconception that UK academics enjoy a leisurely life during the summer. I suppose my summer officially starts after the 21st of June when I have my last exam board for a while. I wish we got a  “full” or “proper” summer, though. Our system over here seems very different. Or maybe it’s just the differences between levels of seniority or types of contract, I don’t know. We never seem to end. Students may get holidays but academic staff need to be always on their toes. The University does not really close during the summer. We do double blind marking over here, which means moderation and calibration processes make the marking period longer and more labour intensive.

Though most of us will have finished marking by the first week of June, our cohorts are large so there are extensions due to Extenuating Circumstances to look at, as we are liaising with second markers and programme officers, to get all marks ready before the exam boards (we have four this time of the year, starting mid June, internal and external, the latter with the presence of external examiners) for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses. At the end of June I also have external examiner responsibilities, so I assess how colleagues in another department in another University have assessed their students, produce a report, and attend their external board. On the 18th of June, we host our research centre’s annual conference or “Open Day”, a full day of simultaneous panels, demos,  keynotes and networking, and on the 3d of July it’s the Learning and Development conference (on teaching practice, for staff) and the next day the School’s PG symposium, where PhD students from across the School present advances of their research (there are prizes too). Then there are the Extenuating Circumstances and Academic Misconduct panels that some of us may have to attend. After the boards pass we have Resits, and the supervision of postgraduate students, MA and MSc students who are doing their final dissertations, and following that the respective boards for those assessments. Most of the full time PG students do their projects over the Summer and we are supposed to meet with them and provide feedback periodically, and there’s the student and staff email to respond to. Those who have PhD students might also have to have supervision meetings over the Summer. At the same time, there’s the marking of Resits, students who need to submit or do exams in August... and there are open days, and recruitment activities, and planning for the new academic year starting in October, which includes liaising with the team of lecturers that teach in the large module I lead. The deadline for the PhD studentship we are offering is on the 14th of June, so the following two weeks will include shortlisting candidates and scheduling interviews and recruitment processes, and then the admin that will follow. I am sure I am forgetting lots of stuff - sorry.

In terms of conferences, I will be going to a couple of conferences in late June and early July that I am very much looking forward to; it will be good to meet with academic friends and meet new colleagues, and learn about their latest work. In early September, I will also participate in two conferences taking place the same week in Mexico City, and I’m also looking forward to that.

On the domestic front, the sale of our flat is finally imminent and we’ll have to move out in late July, and we still don’t know where we are going to move... No pressure. Later in June and July we have a couple of camping weekends (one at a festival). But no longer period of rest. No wonder come October, we don’t necessarily feel refreshed... I love this time of the year though, I really benefit from the longer days, more daylight hours and warmer temperatures make me feel more optimistic, energetic and focused. It’s nice as well there is a significant reduction of departmental/School meetings during the Summer and one can fit in conferences, research, peer review, editing work, working from home, or short trips. I’m not sure the level of workload we get without a sustained period of vacation is very sustainable though, so I guess it’s up to each one of us working in this system to find ways to take leave whenever possible to rest and recover. So maybe it’s just me...?

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