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Think of Vacations as Opportunities to Grow

It’s the middle of summer, and at this point, your family has probably gone on at least one trip or plans to go on one soon. Maybe you will be lucky enough to visit another country, lazing about in the sun on a foreign beach. Maybe you will sightsee historic sites. Or maybe you will see family members in a neighboring state, spending quality time getting to know people with whom you share a common bond.

When students are writing their college admission essays, they sometimes struggle to recall a time that meaningfully impacted them. While your vacation to Cancun, Mexico, may not be the most culturally enlightening experience in your life, it may teach you about yourself or even your family. For those who go to places with a rich history, think of all the great sites you see, like the Taj Mahal or the Roman Colosseum, and how these moments affect how you understood history and people as a whole.

Regardless of where you end up going, take these pieces of advice and consider how you can make the most of your vacations:

1) Go to places with historically significant sites.

You spend so much time studying for history classes during the school year; it only makes sense that you actually experience and see some of the places that you’ve devoted so many hours to understanding. The United States alone has many great places to gain perspective on what you’ve learned in class -- Washington D.C. is a good one for starters.

2) Don’t fall for the “tourist traps.”

Wherever you go, try not to only do what your guidebook recommends, or what first pops up on an Internet search. See what locals suggest you do, and try to get acquainted with the areas that are not filled with overpriced and culturally superficial activities. While tourist traps often do have some significance, they become overwhelmed with businesses and people. A more remote and less popular destination may give you an extra bit of insight into the place you’re visiting.

3) Update a journal or blog during the trip.

Don’t just update your Instagram. Actually “process” how you feel about vacation by writing your thoughts in a spiral notebook or on a blog. Your ideas don’t need to be AP-level writing, but they will help you remember what you did and further develop your thoughts about the trip. Plus, you can possibly use the writing later when you work on an essay for class or college admissions.

4) See nature.

It may seem like a no-brainer, but the natural wonders of the world have an impact on human thought and experience that go beyond anything that man has created. That may be a bit of an extreme viewpoint, but the key here is that you need to unplug from technology and civilization sometimes to see some amazing sights. Some suggestions are the Redwood Forest in California, the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and Montana’s Glacier National Park. And these are just in the United States.

Whatever the circumstance, vacations don’t simply have to be times to get away from your home. Believe it or not, the experiences you have while on vacation can affect how your perceive the world and even yourself. Don’t let these moments on the road or in distant lands go to waste; cherish them as moments that teach you something about the world, and even yourself. They will mold you into the mature student that colleges and employers seek and love.

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