From full-time internships to studying abroad, summertime presents plenty of opportunities for Gonzaga University students to explore their interests, achieve career goals and enhance their understanding of the world around them.

For some Zags, the ensuing four months of sunshine consist of a little bit of everything.

After graduating with a bachelor’s in special education, Hannah Vial said she will continue her work as an educator at Imagine That! summer camp in her hometown of San Diego, California, where she looks forward to four weeks of art projects and sun with her class of 3-year-olds.

“I’m excited to be back with the little ones,” Vial said. “I’m excited to kind of explore how those little ones explore finding their ability to do art and find their relationship with art.”

A former Imagine That! camper herself, Vial said she will return for the Nature and Art: Eric Carle’s Animals and Nature Camp in June, in which campers participate in art, science and literature activities based on the author’s classic stories. From watercolor paintings of bugs to learning about farm animals, Vial said she’s excited about the creative projects ahead.

Vial, who has ADHD, grew up with an uncle who has Down syndrome and has been surrounded by him and his friends for most of her life. In high school, she struggled with the curriculum that didn’t fit her educational needs, but after serving as a peer helper in a life skills class, she fell in love with helping teens who had severe to profound disabilities and realized she wanted to pursue a career in teaching.

“I’ve grown to be even more in love with it in different areas of it, because I came in thinking that I kind of wanted to do more nonverbal, nonmotor, high school setting like I had done in high school,” Vial said. “But as I've studied  and I've had field experiences, I've really developed a love for kids on the autism spectrum and very small children.”

Following summer camp, Vial and her sister will spend the first week of July traveling across Central Europe to explore the region’s historical landmarks. The trip, which is organized through National Geographic, features visits to Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Hungary and Budapest — the latter of which has strong ancestorial roots for Vial.

“It's also going to be interesting, because my sister, my family, actually, we have a lot of Jewish roots, especially from like Budapest and Hungary,” Vial said. “And we're going on a tour of the Jewish Quarter of Budapest, which is where my ancestors probably left before the Holocaust, so it's going to be really cool to go see that area.”

Vial, who spent the summer heading into her junior year on a caravan of democracy through Israel, is far from the only Zag who’ll venture abroad this summer. According to Katusha Kohut, associate director of GU’s study abroad program, 333 students will study abroad or engage in domestic immersion at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral law levels this summer. From a dance tour program through Italy to kayaking down the Green Mile in Utah, Kohut and the study abroad program staff work to incorporate new programs and studies with departments on campus.

This summer, those studying computer science will have the opportunity to study information warfare, the history of computing and how information is used as a resource and tool in the Gonzaga in Berlin program. Meanwhile, Gonzaga in Seoul features a six-week, co-curricular program that explores Korean society and culture, including English practices and is open to any student regardless of their major. And for graduating students, some look to get a head start on their MBA with a two-week, two-credit graduate program through the business school that’s offered in Italy.

“I think one of the things that we often don't realize is we think we learn a lot about the other countries, but it’s also reflecting on your own perspectives and learning about who you are what you stand for,” said Moira Rogers, director of the study abroad office. “Oftentimes students get to experience things in the courses that shift what they thought was their career plan or what their preferences were.”

Jonathan Byers, director of career education, agreed with Rogers’ sentiment that learning from other cultures, both domestic and international, can be a sign of professional growth in an individual.

“I think study abroad can give that different experience, where it may not be a paid work experience, but it's still something that shows that 'here's something that helped me grow as a young professional or student,'” Byers said.

Alternatively, Byers added that some students find such growth through summer internships. From the GU-promoted program in Williston, North Dakota, to sitting in on government sessions in Washington D.C., he’s helped many students with cover letters and resumes in search of work opportunities.

In the case of graduating senior Abby Dodd, who is traveling to Copenhagen, Denmark for two weeks with her roommates, it’s important to balance her summer with work and travel. An environmental studies major from Anchorage, Alaska, Dodd has found ways to incorporate road trips into her drive home, including pit stops at Olympic National Park and the Oregon coast while juggling an internship role in Seattle.

For Zags looking to plan out their summer ahead of time, she recommended an internship or job split between June and August, with June and July dedicated to travel and relaxation.

“So you’re never in a constant state of working or playing too hard,” Dodd said. “It’s just a nice balance back and forth.”

Cole Forsman is the editor-in-chief. Follow him on Twitter: @CGForsman.