Spring: the season of rain, Beer Bike and Easter. But most importantly, the time of year when students scramble to find something, anything, to occupy that daunting, empty time without set classes, club meetings and term deadlines — summer. Springtime is a breeze for those who already have internship offers, study abroad plans or prestigious pre-professional jobs, but for those who don’t, it can feel like being the only senior without a prom date.
Perhaps I’m exaggerating. But I have heard multiple stories of anguish and despair over finding the perfect summer internship. You know, the one that seems cool to friends, bolsters your resume and pleases your parents? Yikes. What a lot to ask out of a summer. What strikes me is the fact that I hear of very few people who actively choose not to pursue a traditional internship or research position. For many of my non-Rice friends, a job at a pool, coffee shop or restaurant is the norm.
Granted, many students attend Rice with the goal of running headfirst into the professional world, so it makes sense that they would pursue internship opportunities over the summer. But this tendency alienates students who don’t want or need to spend their summer with this kind of position. Alternative summer experiences, aka those that don’t involve working at a nonprofit, Fortune 500 company or research lab, can be just as valuable to students as internships.
Take, for example, students who love exploring new cultures. Maybe they can only travel through a baseline job in a foreign country, like a tour guide or a hostess. These jobs provide them with the opportunity to immerse themselves in another culture and potentially reflect on their experiences in a meaningful way, but they choose to pursue an internship instead, because, well, that’s the default option.
Many Rice students undervalue or even completely overlook non-academic summer experiences. They disregard the potential of experience for the sake of experience, which is understandable given the temptation to fill one’s resume with appealing, professional-sounding titles. But if you’re doing something — virtually anything that requires getting out of bed and interacting with the world — your experience probably has some value to you and your future self, whether it promotes self-reflection, earns you some extra cash or simply makes you feel fulfilled. Internships are not the only way to prepare for the future.
In no way do I mean to devalue the “traditional” internship experience or discredit those who truly love these kinds of opportunities. But I want to say that those who don’t want to spend their summer working their butts off in an office or lab shouldn’t feel like they are less hardworking or ambitious than their peers. After all, I can say from personal experience that some physically intensive jobs can be just as taxing and just as rewarding as hours of research.
Pursue opportunities you think will add value to your person, not your resume. Your future employer won’t think you’re a bum because you chose to spend your summer on an organic farm. Internships can be an awesome way to prepare for the future, but they aren’t the only path to productive experience.