Summer Internship Introspection
Issue   |   Wed, 02/26/2014 - 01:01

As deadlines approach for summer internships, The Student can commiserate with the stress and anxiety of prospective interns. Summer internships can be a serious ordeal and scoring a prestigious internship is often more highly valued than success during the academic semester. Internships present a crucial opportunity to not only advance one’s career goals but also to clarify and define what those goals should be. Nonetheless, many students do not carefully deliberate why and where they hope to find an internship, and it can be difficult to find good advice and guidance along the way.

Summer internships have become not only commonplace but also almost imperative. A summer spent without an internship may feel like a summer wasted. This, however, is a detrimental mindset. The focus should not be on what is lost or how students might fall behind career-wise if they do not work as an intern during the summer. Instead, the focus should be on what exactly does one hope to gain from interning and are there internships worth pursuing that provide those opportunities.

The plethora of unpaid internships is indicative of how internships have become compulsory and how too often students are too willing to just go through the motions and to intern just for the sake of interning. Students should pause and question does this internship, especially if it is unpaid, really offer a meaningful and educational experience before accepting any potential offer. A couple of a flashy lines on a resume, without substance, is not worth a summer of vacation — after all, once college ends, there will be few of those left to enjoy.

It has become popular among comedians and politicians to deride the career prospects offered by a liberal arts education. Unfortunately, even a school such as Amherst has taken such criticism to heart. While academically the College is entrenched in a tradition of liberal arts and sciences, in terms of career advising, it often pigeon holes students into certain fields. If students are not directed towards business or finance, then they are led to research or non-profits, and although these are all perfectly fine endeavors, they limit the opportunities that students believe are available to them.

It is a persistent misperception that certain academic disciplines entail certain career prospects, but there is no less reason to expect that an anthropology major can add productive insights at a financial firm or consultancy than to expect that an undergraduate studying economics definitely will. There is no reason for any student should fixate their dreams on some particular field or firm, just as no students should limit themselves to academia, based on their academic major. STEM majors are of practical value to society, but so are other disciplines, and many modern organizations are quick to recognize this. The difficulty for undergraduates, however, is finding them, but the best way to start is with an open mind.

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