Sara Brenes-Akerman | Interning is an alternative
Going into summer without a job, I realize it’s not all that bad
May 26, 2011, 2:47 am · Updated May 26, 2011, 12:00 am·
Until a couple of hours ago, I was a junior without a summer internship. It’s late May and, by now, I had gone through all of the expected phases: denial, anger, guilt, hopelessness and, finally, acceptance.
Yet, the way here was not an easy one. We have been told repeatedly that the summer internship after junior year is the single-most important internship of our undergraduate careers. Get a good one, and you can breathe easy during your senior year. Fail to do so and, well, I’m not exactly sure what, but it isn’t good. Predictably, never hearing back from my first, second or even fifth choice was saddening in a self-doubt-inflicting sort of way. Where had I gone wrong? Did this mean that I was incompetent and awfully under-qualified? Was I forever doomed?
Admittedly, thinking of it as eternal doom might have been taking it a little too far. But it isn’t such a hard leap to make at a school where getting an A-minus is habitually equated to failure and where almost every liberal arts major wishes, at one point or another, that they had chosen a safer route with a greater certainty of future economic success. Few will deny that it takes a substantial degree of self-assuredness to stroll down Locust Walk during On-Campus Recruiting season as a non-participant and not be made nervous by all of our suit-wearing, suitcase-carrying peers.
Now, there is a part of me that knows that these views are fundamentally wrong — we shouldn’t all be in the Wharton School and feeling inadequate because one is not interviewing for Goldman-Sachs is equivalent to falling into a trap. Even so, in moments of internship-less vulnerability, it can be a bit of a struggle to persuade myself that I have not made all of the wrong choices or that the perfect internship is not the be-all, end-all of my future career.
Having received no news by the time finals were over, I packed my bags and came home to Costa Rica. And the thing is that something quite remarkable happened between then and now. I began to feel pretty okay about it. It was not a perfect scenario, of course, but I got excited about hanging out with sisters that I rarely see and friends that I get to see even less. The food is great, I told myself, and I even have time to go to the gym. Sure, my ideal internship would never happen — but, hell, I am young. Who says that a summer should shape your life?
It might have taken some weeks, some massive amounts of anxiety and a few too many bagels but I got there. I got to the place of sincere acceptance and a quiet embrace of the initially undesired circumstances. Being at home and unemployed for the entire length of the summer did no longer seem like the worst thing that could happen but, rather, a chance to rediscover what being home feels like from a fresh perspective. I had replaced fretfulness with an appreciation for quiet days, reading and visits to my grandmother’s house.
And then, the unthinkable happened. I got an email from my first choice asking me whether I was still available and interested in a summer internship. I said yes right away, impulsively and without thinking twice about the authenticity of my newfound wisdom. But when I thought about staying, about the internship not happening despite this, I continued to feel okay about it. The internship had become an alternative instead of a supposedly quintessential element of my future life. And that’s precisely what it should have been all along.
Sara Brenes-Akerman is a rising College senior from Costa Rica. Last semester, her column appeared on Wednesdays. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.