Gaining an Internship, Losing an Opportunity
Issue   |   Tue, 03/03/2015 - 23:35

While wandering around the Amherst campus from mid-February to spring break, it’s hard not to feel a profound wave of stress. You could be excused if you expected the snow on the ground had to stay well into finals period in May. This existential stress, however, is different and far more pervasive than a scramble for grades. It makes students of all class years and majors constantly ask themselves: “What am I doing with the rest of my life?” Internship season has arrived at Amherst.
Amherst students see themselves as the best of the best. De- spite how young we are and how many careers we have left to explore, many of us feel we must have a plan. One political science major has to get a finance internship with an immediate job offer. Pre-med students feel the need to take the summer to study for the MCAT so they can tackle medical school immediately (sometimes after a gap year). Not to mention law school, fellowships and consulting jobs. In order to fulfill all these ambitious goals, we Amherst students feel the need to pad our resumes with the most relevant non-academic experiences. The Career Center and the student body, especially after sophomore and junior years, begin to care less about seeking out experience for experience’s sake and more about how good it will look on a one-page sheet of paper desperately emailed out to whoever will take it.

In our scramble for the most competitive summer internships and our constant states of stress, we lose sight of the possibilities that our summers afford us. The original point of internships is to allow us to explore our interests. We’re supposed to branch out both geographically and ideologically during these few summer breaks that we have. College is universally seen as the time in our lives when we can explore new opportunities that are hard to get afterwards. Our summers are no exception.

Yet the expectations and opportunities set up by the Amherst Career Center have made this ideal increasingly difficult to achieve. Firstly, many students don’t have the funding to simply travel outside of studying abroad, and the dismantling of programs devoted to teaching abroad, such as Amherst China Initiative, make international internships even harder to get. The “hot jobs” in finance and consulting the Center continually, almost exclusively advertises promote this “direct-to-job” after-college mentality. Ultimately, Amherst students shouldn’t lose sight of the potential experiences they can have in the overpowering wake of the job search. Internships are meant to challenge and excite us while exposing us to new fields, not to pigeonhole us into certain others. We’ll have many jobs in our lives, not just one after graduating. Multiple, diverse experiences that excite you will only help you figure out what your passions are in the long run.

Anonymous '16 (not verified) says:
Wed, 03/04/2015 - 12:20

Potential experiences are all well and good, but employers have enormous leverage over students and it's difficult to find a good job without suffering through these stresses. Some of us want well-paying jobs so that we can support a future family, so that maybe our future kids can come to Amherst without having to worry about financial matters. Internships are able to introduce us to new fields, but they are primarily jobs. Stop denigrating a group of individuals trying to ensure a stable life in the future. I would love to go work for NOLS for the summer, but that's not going to help me get a job that will support a family of four. This classification you've drawn is, quite frankly, belittling and insulting.

BW '15 (not verified) says:
Wed, 03/04/2015 - 12:38

Some students at this school don't have the opportunity to "seek out experience for experience's sake." Some students don't have the luxury of exploring different things to determine what they will do for the rest of their lives. Some students have to feel that sophomore and junior year wave of stress because their very adult lives do, in fact, depend on getting a job after graduation. Some students don't get to wallow in their existential crisis and bop around different countries and fields, finding something that completes them. Stop glorifying and treating summer internships like a manic pixie dream girl.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 03/04/2015 - 13:24

This is such an overgeneralization. Many people take internships in fields outside of what they're interesting in. This article basically shames people for taking an internship in a field that they are interested in. You gain a lot of exploring something and realizing you don't like it, just as much as you gain insight from trying something new.

Student (not verified) says:
Wed, 03/04/2015 - 16:55

I feel this article only skims the surface about the reasoning behind selecting certain internships. Yes, there are some students who feel the need to use the internship to further their future careers, but what about the students that need internships that pay well?

Finance internships are one of the very few internships that pay (and pay well) over the course of a summer job. This money earned can be saved to be used over the course of the next year to pay for books and other much needed school supplies.

Point is, not ALL students search for an internship for the sheer need to support their careers, but rather financially support their own future. Some of these students don't have the financial means to explore what they want to do when another internship can either pay or pay better. These students are stressed for internship acceptances not because they want to know they can be the future bankers of the world, but rather know that they can solidify their own financial future for the following year.

It saddens me that the editorial board would use such a wide brush to idealize the internship application process. There are far more important factors that go into internship choices.

Well done (not verified) says:
Wed, 03/04/2015 - 23:42

Well written and concise. I totally agree.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 03/05/2015 - 00:32

is this a joke