Anne Liners, Contributor
Summertime in college is weird. Gone are the days of neighborhood squirt gun fights, sleepaway camps and unlimited time for sports or swimming. Instead, the break between classes is a time of a lot of uncertainty.
How does someone fill three and a half months “productively”? What’s the best way to develop ourselves professionally? How much money do we need to be saving for the school year? Where do we live? What are we planning to do next?
Personally, I had a weird summer. I had just landed back from a semester abroad, and reacclimating myself to social, professional and cultural climates was a little rocky. It was my first summer away from home, and I missed my parents, best friend and dog terribly. I worked at an unpaid internship that not only left me pretty stressed about money but also confirmed that a job that had once sounded perfect was not something I could see myself doing long term. In a lot of ways, especially without the structure of classes, I felt a little lost.
And I’m not the only one. For people who have adjusted to lives focused around their academic priorities, the interim can be unsettling. Some students work impossibly long hours — sometimes at soul-sucking, stressful, underpaid jobs — trying to save up for the next semester or to pay off the last one. Even the more pleasant jobs like internships and apprenticeships are often strenuous first steps into the professional world, where being the youngest, least-experienced one around can be tough. Things can be hard socially too. Without classes keeping us together, making time to see important friends can become difficult and support systems can be worn thin. Summer trips and sports tend to result in more than the usual number of injuries. More free time can lead to situations where substance abuse and sexual assault become more likely. However it shows in individual students’ lives, losing a guaranteed structure like school can be hard.
The thing is, Augsburg has a service to help students deal with all of these things. For anyone yet unaware, the Center for Wellness and Counseling (CWC) offers every Augsburg student 10 free counseling sessions per year. Students can take advantage of these services regardless of mental or physical health status, economic situation: regardless of anything. Any student who needs it has the chance to seek professional counseling. Unfortunately, other counseling services can be difficult to find, pay for, get to or access in any number of other ways, which is what makes Augsburg’s offering of this service so valuable and important. This great resource is closed during the summer.
Closing the CWC in the summer suggests that this is a time when no one has any need for it. This is demonstrably untrue. Just as much as, if not sometimes more so than, in the school year, students need to be able to work through difficult things. Admittedly, fewer students are on or around campus, but enough are. Maybe we don’t need to talk about classes, but in order for Augsburg students to be productive, well-rounded, experienced people, we need to process what’s going in the time we spend outside of Augsburg itself.
I call on Augsburg to look at the message that a closed CWC sends students. Make sure that student wellbeing remains the priority whether or not classes are in session. Offer the same counseling services that are available during the school year over the summer. Your students will thank you.
This article first appeared in the Friday, September 21 edition of The Echo.