Everyone has a different opinion about what you should do with your summer break after the first-year of medical school. The short answer: it really depends on you! If you want to do a really competitive specialty or have your heart set on practicing in a really competitive area, you might want to spend that time doing research or networking. A lot of people use that time to volunteer in the hospital or shadow doctors as well. I personally needed a break from medicine and figured that was going to be my only real break I would get for a while. I used that summer to focus on learning new languages and traveling! Looking back, I am so decided I did.
I went to Rome, Italy, and made so many amazing memories that I will never forget. I was inspired to continue traveling and refreshed to start the second-year of medical school. My advice would be to spend that summer doing something that you really love doing. If you have your heart set on volunteering in the NICU all summer, do it. If you want to completely get your brain off of medicine and travel, do it. Medical school and being a physician takes a lot of time and a lot of hard work. I figure that if I had the chance to take a break, I was going to do it. I will get a small break this summer after I take boards, and I am definitely planning on traveling somewhere before third-year starts!