Today I was at the grocery store when I ran into a family friend in the fruit and veggie section. We delved into the standard catch-up conversation: “How are the kids? How’s the dog? etc. etc.” And then, finally, the inevitable: “What are you doing for the summer?”
When I came home from school in early May, I had no idea what I was doing for the summer. I had applied to about 10 internships starting that past December and would end up applying for 4 more before the month was over. I was internship-crazy. Every time I saw a posting somewhere that relatively resembled what I was looking to do (I’m a Journalism major, BTW), I sent over a cover letter and résumé. I heard from only 2 of the them, and both of those responses essentially said “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Like many other things in life, people always seem to think they have the right answer, strategy and approach to college student summers.
“You need to follow up with the company at least 3 times.”
“Only follow up ONCE at most.”
“Write your cover letter like this. No one likes a boring cover letter.”
“Don’t go crazy with your cover letter. Keep it traditional.”
“What you really need to do is talk to your local newspapers and magazines.” “I did that.” “Oh, well, I don’t know what to tell you.”
After I realized I wasn’t going to be participating in an internship this summer, I was the most nervous about facing this peanut gallery when I came home. In my mind, saying you have an in internship for the summer means you’ve won. You’re doing everything you’re supposed to be doing and you’re going to be awarded with success and happiness for the rest of your life. Saying you didn’t have an internship implied the opposite.
My learning to accept my internship-less summer did not happen all at once. It wasn’t an “aha” moment in the middle of the night that made me realize how silly I had been acting and how personally I took everything. I never had an existential realization that life was so much bigger and purposeful than one tiny summer. I never suddenly felt good about myself that I didn’t have to deal with traditional internship woes like getting coffee and making copies.
I found my comfort and my reassurance through my friends from both at school and home; from my peers who were waitressing at two different restaurants, nannying kids, working in offices. I knew deep down that they were incredibly intelligent people, people with genuine souls and people who I had no doubt would someday be successful. They didn’t have internships. They couldn’t get them either.
I gradually felt better knowing that instead of moping, I was filling my summer with things that made me fulfilled and satisfied. I’m volunteering, I’m writing, I’m doing everything I can to stay active and to pursue what eventually I want to do when I’m a real grownup.
At the beginning of the summer, when someone would ask me what my plans were, I would feel ashamed and embarrassed that interning wasn’t my response. I don’t feel so bad about it anymore.
I am 20 years old. I am a novice at best in the field of journalism. This coming year alone I will continue to learn more than what I’ve ever learned before and will expand my perspective and enhance my skills. I allowed myself to accept that I have time. I am not going to be un-hirable because I didn’t intern the summer before my junior year.
I don’t want this post to sound preachy, or to make it seem like I’m above the struggle of getting an internship. There’s no chance I’m not going to start this whole process over again in a few months for next summer. And I truly believe it’ll work out. Next year I’ll be more mentally and emotionally prepared for the workforce than I am now. I’m no longer stressed, but excited to see what next year and the following years will bring me.