Before everyone freaks out: Internships are a great way to gain experience in a field of interest, help bulk up a resume for future employment, and cross a potential career path off your list. This is merely the argument that there are other, equally valuable ways to spend your summer. Those of you who’ve already snagged your super impressive spots at Goldman Sachs, go forth and conquer.
But, for those of you who maybe feel like there’s another way you’d rather spend precious time outside the classroom and fear the backlash of your hyper-competitive peers: fear not. You are a totally reasonable human being. (Especially if you’re a first-year. Seriously, calm your shit).
The thing is, you worked your ass off to get to Columbia University (or maybe not, that’s cool too), so you’re surrounded by incredibly accomplished people all vying to be the most successful versions of themselves as soon as possible. And with that comes a lot of pressure, judgment, and determinism with how to spend your time over the summer. But it’s time to get out of our stressful little bubble and realize you might be doing better things for yourself by not getting an internship this summer.
I was recently talking to some friends who all attend different universities across the country, each of whom was doing something totally different for the summer. One was actually taking time to relax (I KNOW), another was using saved up money for a backpacking trip across Southeast Asia, while the other was going abroad to volunteer for two months. For me, it was a slap in the face.
Columbia had me in a stupefied daze, where all I could think about were top investment firms, advertising agencies, and cover letters. While internships are intrinsically and extrinsically valuable; it needs to be said that they’re not the only option, and honestly not the best option all the time. The short few months away from school is such a precious time, and it’s upsetting that so many people see it as a preplanned, rigid step where one toils onward on the path to “success” instead of doing something that could be more meaningful for them.
For those of you who are severing your limbs to pay for your education, getting a lucrative job is simply a better way to spend the summer. Or if you’ve saved up, plan that epic trip you’ve been thinking about and probably won’t be able to do later in life. You’re a first-year; the amount of obligations and responsibilities you have is potentially the lowest it will ever be for the rest of your life. Take advantage of this fleeting moment, and don’t let Columbia sway you in your conviction that a road trip could truly be more valuable for you than an internship. There shouldn’t be any embarrassment or shame in saying, “I’m taking time for myself this summer,” or “I’m backpacking this summer,” and it shouldn’t be seen as lazy or a waste of time.
The point is, internships will be there for you to grab your entire collegiate career and beyond. But your status as a first-year, your circumstances, and your freedom: that shit’s temporary. So take a step back and really ask yourself: Do you actually want that internship now? If the answer’s yes, praise. And if it’s no, all the more praise.
Calm Down via Paolo Schorli/Shutterstock.com