Campus Life advice

Boredom blues

Supporting the MIT community, one query at a time: making the most of your summer

If you would like Tech Support to take a look at your problems, please submit them at Questions have been edited for length, clarity, and content.


Tech Support: Hello, how may I help you?

Reader: I'm bored at my UROP but don't want to waste my summer. How can I make the most out of it?

Tech Support: You can learn a lot from an experience even if it’s not the most ideal. What is at least one positive or something you enjoy about your UROP? Are you gaining any new skills or experiences that can help you for the future? Ask your supervisor or other people at your lab if they have projects you can help out with and talk to them about what made them do what they’re doing today.  

I would also recommend thinking about what exactly you find boring at your UROP —  maybe it is the subject matter, the environment (i.e., amount of human interaction, coworkers), or perhaps even the act of sitting at a desk for eight hours a day (and whether it is desks in general or this particular desk). Try tracking your energy for some period of time (a few days or even weeks) and take note of when you feel more excited about certain things. You can think about past experiences as well to see what has made you feel energized before or what kinds of things you are good at.  

I was in your shoes a few years ago. I was working a research job at a university and felt bored out of my mind, but looking at the experience now, I realize it was mainly because I was very isolated at my job, and human interaction is one of the vital factors that I need to energize me. Your boredom may be caused by something different, so ask yourself what you actually feel when you don’t feel great.

You may also think about what your strengths and interests are based on past roles and experiences. What are the things you can’t stomach doing for a future job, and what are the things you can’t help doing even when you’re not asked to? Use this time to prepare for the future and talk to those who may be doing something you think seems interesting. Be curious and be open to possibilities.

And just one more note in case you’re in this position: society has constantly fed us this tale of “doing what you love” and “finding your passion,” but the majority of people see work as just a way to pay the bills. Perhaps you are okay with work not being your one true passion in life and instead pursuing a passion on the side outside of work. Go for what you want if you know what it is, but it’s also okay to see work as just work if you choose to do so.