Photo by Phil Whitehouse / CC 2.0
"We STEM boyz," a group chat of Penn rising seniors, has achieved the hard, but far from impossible. All of its members had the fortune of landing prestigious internships in their careers of choice for this summer. We were honored to be granted interview time with three of their most successful members, but surprised to find that all three admitted to feelings of intense jealousy over their friends' internship experiences.
Prakash Agarwal (E '18) is exactly the type of guy you'd expect to find at a summer analyst position at Goldman Sachs. Intelligent, confident, and obsessed with nice suits, Agarwal greeted me with a firm handshake and a reserved smile. We settled down for coffee at a Starbucks, since we were missing Penn. After ordering his daily order of a Venti Dark Roast, he launched into an unexpectedly impassioned rant.
"I was so excited when I found out I got the job, I changed my LinkedIn description to 'Incoming Summer Analyst at Goldman Sachs' and posted on Facebook right away," said Agarwal, grabbing his coffee and downing a frighteningly large gulp. "But when I got here, I found out that it's endless spreadsheets and people pleasing and nitpicking over the most tedious of details. Why didn't I pick something that actually makes use of my engineering skills, like Martin? This blows."
"I'm not sure if Prakash is even doing anything at Goldman," said Martin Zhou (E '18), a mechanical engineering intern at Boeing. We had asked Zhou a few questions about his work, but he was evasive, fiddling with his big wire-rimmed glasses and claiming that it was of confidential nature. "But it has to be better than this. Wall Street is awful, but I never imagined I'd be working for a capitalist military-industrial complex. Isn't STEM supposed to help the people?" He touched the safety pin fastened to his shirt and fixed me with a morose look. "I went into engineering to make a difference in the world. As far as I know, the only one of us who's going to do that is Joe."
Joe Addison (C '18), our final interviewee, slunk into our arranged meeting spot (the Starbucks at 39th Street, objectively the second best on campus) a full thirty minutes late. "Sorry, I was at the lab," he apologized. He is conducting cancer research this summer at Penn Medicine. "What I'm doing is okay, I guess, but my friends are making three to four times what I am. I basically live in the lab, and for what? I'm barely making any progress," Addison confided. "I spent my lunch break today looking at internship salaries on Glassdoor and regretting my life choices. I don't even care about cancer anymore."
The less-than-illustrious lives of these fine men have us convinced: internships mostly suck. It's a lesson all of us should take to heart, even if only because we're stuck at home without one.