Summer program not what you thought it would be? How to make the best of it

Summer is a great time for continuing education: young artist programs, entrepreneurship programs, internships, and certification programs abound, giving people of all different ages and experience levels an opportunity to enhance their knowledge and skill level in some way.

If you auditioned and accepted a program or registered for one this summer, I can imagine you were excited about it! While these experiences are often wonderful, they can also come with challenges. And unfortunately, they can be downright unpleasant sometimes.

A program should be a place to gain knowledge and experience and to build relationships – the last thing anyone wants is to have a bad time. But just like all instructors aren’t the same, all programs are not created equal either, and not everyone excels at running a program (or being in one).

If you find yourself in a program that turns out to be something less than desired, here are some ways to try and make the best of it:

1. Avoid complaining with other participants

When things aren’t going well, it’s easy to commiserate with others. This usually escalates quickly into a bitch-fest where the bashing of program employees, faculty, or even other participants ensues.

Do yourself a really big favor, and don’t get caught up in this. There’s a good chance things you say will get passed on. While it’s really tempting to get things off your chest, this is not the way to do it.

Rather than jumping on the complaining wagon, steer any comments like this toward problem solving. The conversation will be much more productive, and you won’t be associated with having a negative attitude.

2. Push (kindly) for clear communication

If the program is unorganized or doesn’t seem to be giving you a clear idea of what’s going on, don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for clarity – just be sure to do it in a kind way.

People are usually trying to do the best they can. And while that can fall short of expectations, people who just don’t care are probably not the norm. If people are trying, it doesn’t help to give them a lot of frustrated energy or attitude. Chances are that will only slow them down even more.

If there is a lack of organization that seems to be caused by overwhelm, why not offer to help? You’re there anyway, and if it will make your experience a happier one, this might be a way to enjoy your experience more (and be a hero to everyone else).

3. Protect your own energy

Programs bring together a lot of different people, and it’s quite common that everyone – participants, faculty/presenters, and staff – are all creatives…

That means a lot of different personalities, behaviors, attitudes, and emotions surrounding you all at once! It’s common that people disagree, get frustrated, and even get in heated arguments.

Taking on the energy of others can really affect your ability to have your own experience. If you’ve ever been in a good mood and then someone comes along who isn’t and suddenly you don’t feel so great anymore, you know what I mean.

Just imagine a force field around yourself – one that protects you from outside influences like the energy of others, and news you hear, and germs (!) – and do this every morning.

If this sounds silly to you, that’s ok – it’s just a visual that accompanies the conscious decision to keep things out of your being that you don’t want to let in. I used to get sick all the time, and once I started doing this that almost quit happening completely. Now it seems that aside from the occasional allergies (which also don’t happen often), I only get sick once every 7-10 years.

I don’t know if you’ll have a similar experience, but it’s certainly worth a shot for something that’s so easy to do.

4. Practice empathy

It’s not unusual that someone (or more than one person) stands out to you as a person who is either very into themselves or condescending, or possesses some other characteristic you find to be unfavorable.

Just remember that people who tend to exhibit behaviors like this are usually struggling with finding their own place, and they usually feel insecure. I’m not saying you should tolerate unacceptable behavior – it’s ok to set boundaries. But perhaps consider the possibility that under that external jerky façade is someone yearning to be accepted, and some kindness would go a long way.

Yes, connecting with people like this can take some extra effort. But I’ve seen people with these kinds of insecurities completely change their behavior and outlook in as little as a couple of weeks, all because they were shown kindness.

Go out of your way to make someone like this feel included. Be a leader and take some time to see if you can discover some of the good qualities the person possesses. Who knows, you might make a good friend (and possibly change someone’s life).

Just like anything, most experiences are what you make of them – even if it’s learning what you want to avoid in the future! Perhaps there’s a greater lesson to be learned than what you expected. Practically everything provides an opportunity to learn, even if it’s not what you originally envisioned. It’s up to you what you’ll take away from your experience – challenge yourself to find the value in any situation!

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