It’s not news to anyone that every summer thousands of college students from across the country (and often the world) descend on the city to work hard and party hard during summer internships.
As the admissions brochures love to advertise, Columbia students have the distinct advantage of living here all year to snatch up all the internships opportunities from all of the companies in New York looking to exploit free labor during the fall and spring semesters.
At a recent club meeting, I couldn’t help but notice how many of my peers mentioned internships in describing their semesters so far. And I convinced myself that it was a waste not to pursue at least some of the many opportunities available to me. Yet every step of the way, I kept wondering, “Why am I doing this again?”
I know that originally the answer was that I wanted to get real-world experience, which meant working during the year and not in the alternative world that summer can be. But what’s real-world experience for someone not majoring in econ or destined for law or med school? Or generally for someone who doesn’t have any particular career path in mind?
But I also felt some pressure to apply for an internship. I’ve already spent two years as a college student, and have finally started getting the hang of that role. A prestigious internship seems like the next logical step, at least based on what I can gather from my peers.
Yet the more I think about the prospect of having an internship during the year, the less I’m sure about it. Will it be too stressful on top of my already substantial workload? Will it actually be a valuable experience? Or do I just want to do it because everyone else is? Am I lame to want to stay within the cocoon of academia? Am I going to be behind if I make the decision not to have an internship?
In the end, I still don’t know the answer.
Nathalie Barton is a junior in CC majoring in American Studies. She’s aware that she’ll probably have to settle for an unpaid internship instead of a job after graduation.
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