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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Finding the right path starts within

Published: September 2, 2011
Section: Opinions

Summer may be a break from school, but it is not necessarily a time for complete relaxation. Along with trips to the beach, barbecues and flag cake, summer is also a time for supplementing our work at Brandeis with internships and jobs. These experiences away from Waltham can be as vital to our development as our experiences in it. Out in the real world, we learn about potential career opportunities, meet people from all over who are interested in the same fields as we are, network with those in whose footsteps we hope to follow and (if we’re very, very lucky) make a little money.

Internships are tricky. Three undergraduate summers, and three summer internships, under my belt, I still struggle to believe people can actually maintain their sanity while working from nine-to-five, at least five days every week, every month, every year. Showing up (and staying off Facebook) is only half the battle.

Just as with choosing classes or majors, internships require a great deal of self-reflection, self-knowledge and a deep reserve of fortitude to truly make the best of them. Simply showing up to class doesn’t tell us if we love a subject. That sort of decision requires serious personal engagement. So does assessing our interest in a career.

Assessing our internship experiences requires us to be able to learn crucial lessons from our daily activities and surroundings. The simple, “Do I like this sort of work?” is the most oversimplified taxonomy of questions we need to internally pose if we are going to take away the richest information from our experiences. To do this, we must make accurate and critical observations about our offices and coworkers as well as of ourselves.

As young adults soon to hold Brandeis University diplomas, the world is our oyster. But how do we crack it? How do we tap into the vast resources of enthusiasm we know exist within each of us? After three internships I must admit that I have not completely mastered the art.

Even after a summer spent in the nation’s capital working on the major foreign relations issues of the day, I struggle to decide if the environment or the type of work is the sort I want to pursue. My inability to make these deductions, I think, stems from my inability to completely know and trust myself. Every year I come closer to actualizing this unreachable goal, but it is incredibly difficult to place myself without an ill-defined level of self-confidence.

A senior this year with May 2012 quickly approaching, my window of summer internships is all but closed. I will have to make some big choices soon all the same—and I can only make them with the imperfect observations I have. The key for me will be to keep at it. Some day soon the collection of my experiences will lead me to embark on the right career confidently.

If I can impart any advice to those of you who have more time before leaving the Brandeisian bubble, I implore you to start this process as early as possible. Do not take this to mean just the development of internship experience to tack onto your resume but the process of self-understanding. Making the most of your internships by discovering your perfect job and buried passions depends on knowing what makes you happy. Start now if you haven’t already.