With Internships, Money Isn’t Always the End Game
Internships may be valuable, even if you don't get paid. My first internship showed me possibilities that I hadn't even thought of before!
Since I can remember, I’ve had a passion for writing. It was the one part of me — the one talent — in which I was completely confident, something that no one could take away from me.
However, whenever I tell people I want to be a writer, they often ask me what kind I want to be. I am still unable to respond. Some people might see my uncertainty about the future as a lack of focus, but it’s not.
In fact, this is what I like most about my ambition to be a writer. I like the ambiguity, not knowing where this passion will take me. However, three years ago, I wouldn’t have been singing the same tune.
I remember the feeling as a high school sophomore navigating through annual college fairs. I debated whether to tell college representatives that I was interested in studying English. It wasn’t as if I was passionate about studying anything else other than English, but that I was worried about the practicality.
What high-paying job could I get with a degree in English? What if I am not able to churn out bestsellers like Suzanne Collins or Stephanie Meyer and make millions?
It is sometimes difficult to balance my liberal arts passion with my goal of making more than just a living four to five years from now.
And then I met someone at one of the college fairs. She wasn’t a college rep, but she started talking to my friend and me about options.
When my friend said she was interested in a pre-med track, this person’s face lit up with approval, but then she cautioned my friend on how tough it was to go into medicine.
I gathered enough courage and said I was focused on becoming an English major. She dismissed me with, “Oh, you’ll be fine — that will be easy work.” She quickly turned to my friend to talk more on a medical career. Never had I felt so insulted. I tried not to take the response to heart.
The doubts began: Was I on the wrong track?
Luckily for me, my high school — the Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem (TYWLS) — has an annual tradition of releasing seniors a few weeks early so they can complete an internship inside or outside the school.
This program was established to enable TYWLS girls to experience a professional environment before heading off to college.
I decided to do my internship at my school. I worked for my 11th grade English teacher, Ms. Conn. In the last few weeks of school, the class took a break from the regular academic curriculum. Instead, it focused on something more personal: drafting and completing the college essay
My internship at school was, unfortunately, unpaid. I was looking forward to my summer internship just as a way to make some money and save. But being an intern for Ms. Conn’s class changed all that.
As someone who used to be shy and reclusive, it was a bit hard at first to stand in front of the room and get the class to focus.
With each passing day, my public speaking skills improved tremendously. My voice wielded enough power not only to silence a classroom of highly energetic girls, but also to pique their interest in what the class involved that day.
“Seanna, what do you want to do when you are older?” one of my students asked.
I was ready to start my “professional ambiguity” speech for the umpteenth time. But the student interrupted. “You should be a teacher one day,” she said. “You would be amazing.”
I would gladly take up another unpaid internship if it meant discovering more about myself as a writer, and my potential as an English teacher.
Despite wanting to be an English major, I never considered teaching English. I pictured myself writing magazine articles or important contracts for a business. But my student’s comment gave me fresh hope.
I do look forward to earning some cash during another internship at Publicis Healthcare Communications Group before I head off to college. But I honestly don’t think I can say one internship will be better than another.
I think any internship is vital – whether paid or not.
It’s an opportunity to gain experience that can help you map out your professional future.
However, being in my financial position, it helps to get paid. A paid internship that inspires me professionally would be a win-win. It’s reassuring to know that my years at college will help me figure out what I want to do with my writing. But it’s even more reassuring to know that future internships will be crucial toward figuring it out as well.