Reaching the end of my first year as an undergraduate student at NYU, I should feel relieved. I made it through a year of college and a year of living in the city without failing, dying or having too many mental breakdowns — though I’ll admit, there have been a few here and there. Now, I’m only six weeks away from going home where I finally can relax with my family. Except, I have now realized that there is nothing relaxing about undergraduate summers or the weeks preceding. The competitive nature of the summer internship search leaves no room for relaxation.
Recently, my suitemate walked into my room and said, “I think I’ll be fine without a paid internship if I do an unpaid internship while also working at a restaurant at night. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll volunteer somewhere regularly while working a job that pays well, but doesn’t look good on my resume.” Her reasoning didn’t come as a surprise, considering the fact that all any student will talk about at the moment is how they’re going to secure a summer position that boosts their resume.
Odds are, if you are an undergraduate student at NYU, you are familiar with the internship struggle — you either have an internship lined up for the summer or you’re desperately looking for one. Gone are the days of working part-time at ice cream shops and grocery stores, and, in many cases, actually getting paid for your work — a greater problem in and of itself.
People don’t warn you that your career begins on your first day at NYU. At 18, I am expected to know what I want to do with my life and make a jump start on my future, or else I’ll be stuck playing catch up to my peers. I believe that internships can provide positive learning environments for expanding skill sets and gaining experience, especially for juniors, seniors and graduate students. However, the quality of your resume and ability to secure an internship later on should not be contingent on what you did over the summer after your first year. Entry level jobs are now requiring up to two years of industry experience, so when you graduate your resume is expected to be deep in both quantity and quality — which delegitimizes that ice cream scooping job. There are even some internships for juniors and seniors that require prior industry experience, pushing the timeline forward even more.
Furthermore, at a school with students from different states and countries, many of us don’t have the same internships opportunities at home compared to those provided in New York City. As a result, some students choose to stay in the city over the summer to work, and only see their families for a week or two. It’s sad to think that this summer will be my last summer at home because where I live in New Hampshire doesn’t have nearly as many internship opportunities in my industry as there are in New York.
Unfortunately, there is no clear way to get around this. Admittedly, I am writing this piece after submitting over 10 applications, partaking in numerous phone interviews and jumping at every indeed.com notification that pops up in my inbox. At the end of the day, you either play along and run the internship race, or get left eating your classmate’s dust.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 2 print edition. Email Tyler Crews at [email protected].