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My first year of university was nothing short of catastrophic. I lost hours of sleep over feeling not clever enough, constantly weighing the option of dropping out against my lack of any plan B. I trudged through the university process, eventually finishing my first year – which was meant to be the “fun year” – with little enthusiasm for the future.

But that summer, everything changed. Desperate to break free from my gloomy existence, I applied to work as a senior mentor for the National Citizen Service, a kind of condensed Duke of Edinburgh programme for 15- to 17-year-olds. I was accepted, and was soon in a job for the first time since my year 9 paper round.

It was the perfect summer job: it was well paid, not boring and fairly easy. The experience bolstered my self-confidence, and added a much-needed bullet point to my CV. Both helped in a later successful application to intern at the Raindance Film Festival: a fun few weeks and another bullet point.

My university holidays have proved to be distracting yet productive, the antidote to the all the drudgery of term time. But you obviously don’t need to be a struggling student like me to get something special out of your holidays. Tom Fenton, a fourth year studying history, pushed the boat out further than most by spending his free months working with NGOs around the world. He travelled to Cyprus, Kosovo, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

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