For most engineering and other STEM-related students, winter break is the first time they have to actually stop and take a breather. The major community service activities, finals, projects, and presentations are done, and students are looking forward to some time to spend with family and friends. Personally, I know I get done with my last final at 5:00 on Thursday next week (not that I’m counting or anything), and I am looking forward to celebrating with my fellow chemical engineering students then taking a bus to NYC to visit some friends I haven’t seen in two years. All this is great and wonderful to recharge your batteries for next semester; however, as your mind is cluttered with end-of-semester cramming followed by fun activities, it’s easy to lose your SWE momentum.
I know Region G already surpassed our FY12 year-end membership total of 20,802 members with 20,958, and a number of the individual sections have held successful networking and outreach activities. It’s important to continue building on this success rather than starting again at zero when the new semester starts. Part of this involves good communication. It’s good to email people about end-of-year wrap up early, so they have time to address it before everything gets too busy. Ask for a confirmation email or message so you know that the information was received and understood, even if they don’t have time to address it immediately. Also, even though events in the spring seem like they are far away, if you wait until the new semester starts to notify volunteers, sell tickets, or organize activities, it might not be enough time or notice. Save yourself a headache later and send out “preliminary” messages so even though the event or activity might seem like a ways away, people can have it in the back of their minds or mark it down in their planners. You might be surprised how booked people’s calendars can be…especially professionals. Giving as much notice as possible is not only smart for organization purposes, but it’s way more polite and socially-savvy.
Also, the spring semester is an important time for elections. Break is a good time to determine some possible candidates, and in fact, the call for applicants is coming on December 17th (if you are interested in running for a position, please email a member of the RCT or comment on this post!). It’s hard to believe that our terms are already winding down, but it’s important to make sure all your hard work is not lost when your successor takes over. Start thinking about how you want to transition with the new officer. If you haven’t already, make some notes about important dates, activities, requirements, or contacts that you would like to pass on. That way, your successor can build upon your hard work, rather than starting from nothing and having to repeat everything you’ve already done.
Finally, make efficient use of your time. Engineers don’t have a lot of free time, so use it wisely. Spend time with family and friends, read a new book, or catch up with an activity you don’t have time for during the school year. However, set some time aside to cross off all the odds and ends on your to-do list, such as updating your resume or LinkedIn page, filling your honors/graduation portfolio, logging community service, applying for the FE or research opportunities, etc.. This will help you start fresh or ahead of the game when school starts. It’s probably much more advantageous to answer some emails or plan a schedule for the spring semester rather than watching Elf for the third time (or do it while you watch!). If you don’t head home right away or come back early, scrapbook your activities from the previous semester over cookies and hot chocolate, or organize registration forms or volunteer station boxes with some of your SWE-sters. I believe the cliche is, the more the merrier.
So it’s important to Balance Your Break, but also to Maintain Your SWE Momentum. Get some stuff done and organized so you aren’t as stressed next semester. Take a couple hours now while you have a few to spare. You’ll be glad you did, and have some fun and enjoy your break.
For your enjoyment, some Calvin and Hobbes holiday comics (all by Bill Watterson).