It’s hard to pick a career in a world of so many niche professions — you can now earn a living promoting indie music bands, working at the intersection of robotics and nanotechnology, or helping restaurants redesign their menus. It’s even harder to figure out what to study to prepare for the career of your choice. This is where summer schools can help. These are typically short, intensive courses designed to help young students explore a field they’re interested in, as they set out on their college careers.
So you can dabble in gender identity studies, economic theory, telecommunication, forensic science, nanotechnology, or international relations. The courses are one to four weeks long, and are being conducted at institutes across the country and abroad.
“These courses offer exposure to a wide variety of fields, so they could help you discover new ways to connect your education with the career of your choice,” says Kimberley Dixit, co-founder of overseas education consultancy The Red Pen. Instead of civil engineering, for instance, you could work towards a career in sustainable architecture.
Between end-May and July, there are several summer-school programmes available to students from Classes 9 through 12, costing between Rs 15,000 and Rs 1.9 lakh.
At UWC Mahindra College in Pune, there is what they call the YES programme (youth, environment and sustainability); there’s the TGIF (theatre, gender identity and film), and the Encounter India programme, which sees the student travel to non-metro and rural parts of the country to understand local communities and cultures.
The Woodstock School in Mussoorie has programmes on art for change, entrepreneurship and leadership. Noida’s Amity University has a more academic summer programme, in subjects that include technology, management, communication, law, and psychology.
The Warwick University’s one-week introduction to economics with finance, conducted at The British School in Delhi, is for students under 17 looking to study the subject abroad.
Most institutes use a mix of classroom lectures, practical learning like lab work, field trips and a project at the end.
At Amity, for instance, each day of the two weeks is divided into a pre-lunch and post-lunch session. “In the first half, students will learn about the course they have picked, say nanotechnology. In the second half, they are introduced to areas of application, like forensic science or telecommunication or hotel management,” says Gauri Chakraborty, from the faculty of mass communication at Amity’s summer programme.
At UWC Mahindra, for the module on sustainability, students learn concepts such as waste management in the classroom, followed by a field trip to a waste collection plant in Pune.
Two big advantages of a summer-school programme are exposure to the wider world of academics and careers, and a greater degree of clarity about a given field or subject.
“Students should not simply go from one kind of syllabus-based learning to another. A summer school is a good opportunity for them to focus on and engage with specific areas outside the conventional systems and choices,” says Amy Seefeldt, director of the Centre for Imagination at the Woodstock School.
Vinayakk Rajesekhar, 26, now a programme manager at a policy advisory firm in Delhi, did a summer school course on international relations and international economic policy, in 2014, on offer at Miranda House in Delhi as part of the King’s College International Summer School that it has been hosting since 2012.
“The four-week course helped me lay the ground for further studies, which included a diploma in conflict transformation and peace-building and a Masters in international security,” Rajesekhar says. “I also got a nuanced, academic understanding of how diplomatic relations work. And it helped me approach my higher studies with a more critical mind.”
Though he was a 22-year-old graduate in BSc (Anthropology) when he signed up for the course, for instance, it was the first time he was forced to do multiple-source research on his own, in an unfamiliar subject. “The sense of criticality that gave me has stayed with me even today,” Rajesekhar says.
Personal growth is often cited as a big plus. For Delhiite Suchet Mittal, 17, now doing his two-year IB diploma at UWC Mahindra College, the two-week TGIF workshop he did two years ago helped him become more comfortable with his own sexuality, and learn how to open dialogue with those who did not understand the nuances of LGBTQI lifestyles.
“These are things internet research cannot teach you,” he says. “The class had students from Spain, Ireland and Argentina, and speaking to them, I realised that I was very defensive about my opinions. Having these discussions, through film and theatre, helped me feel less antagonised towards those who did not agree with my point of view.”
Keep in mind
There is a flip side. “There should not be pressure to spend the money, or unrealistic expectations of what the course will bring you,” says Dixit of The Red Pen. “If you can find another way to get clarity, like doing an online course or speaking to a senior who is doing something similar, then you should explore those options too.”