Internships: Sometimes Money is Not 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!
Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had a passion for writing. It was the one part of me – the one talent – that I was completely confident in, 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 when navigating through annual college fairs. I debated with myself on whether or not to tell college representatives that I was interested in studying English. It wasn’t like I was passionate about studying anything else other than English, but that I was worried about the practicality of it. 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 the goal in mind of making more than just a living four to five years from now.
And then I met someone at one of the many college fairs that I attended. 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, her face lit up with approval. And then continued to caution her 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 best friend to talk more on a medical career. Never had I felt so insulted. I tried not to take the response to heart as it is a normal reaction.
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 in order for them to complete an internship in or outside of school. This opportunity was established to enable TYWLS girls to experience a job or a professional environment before heading off to college.
YOU SHOULD BE A TEACHER ONE DAY. YOU WOULD BE AMAZING.
I decided to do my own internship at my school. I worked for my 11th grade English teacher, Ms. Conn. In the last few weeks of school, Ms. Conn’s English class took a break from the regular academic curriculum. Instead, they 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 have to stand in front of the room and get the class to focus on command. With each passing day at the internship, 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 interests in what the class entailed that day.
“Seanna, what do you want to do when you are older?” one of my students asked during class.
I was ready to start my “professional ambiguity” speech for the umpteenth time. But then I was interrupted by the student. She said: “You should be a teacher one day. 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 to be an English teacher.
Despite wanting to be an English major, I never considered being an English teacher. I pictured myself writing for a magazine or writing up important contracts for a business firm. 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 either internship will be better than the other.
I think any internship is vital – whether it is paid or not.
It’s an opportunity to gain experience that can help you map out your professional future. I would gladly take up another unpaid internship if it meant discovering more about myself as a writer, and my potential to be an English teacher.
However, being in the financial position that I am in, 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 the experience of doing future internships will be crucial towards figuring it out, as well.