I am a business major and the curriculum demands I take certain courses. Beyond that, I feel like there’s also a standard path I must follow outside of the classroom. I’m supposed get the right grades, join the right clubs, get the right leadership roles and network with the right people. All this leads up to an internship and eventual job offer. I’ve gotten the grades, joined the clubs, earned the roles, networked with the people and landed the internship offer.
But I don’t want an internship this summer. I’m 20 years old and — by the standards of my peers – my rejection of this standard places me behind the ball on the job I’m supposed to land after graduation. I surround myself with motivated people, and nearly all of them have internships lined up for this summer.
I’m studying abroad in Rome this summer. I’m traveling the world while I’m young and can afford (perhaps not financially) to make the mistakes that naive 20-year-olds can make. I turned down the opportunity to intern in a finance position at a highly regarded Fortune 500 company. I would make three times what I made at my old job at a bagel shop and it would look great on my resume. For a few weeks, I had almost signed the dotted line to surrender myself to corporate life before I’m even halfway done college.
All my life, I’ve focused on doing the “right” things for my future. My grades, my extracurricular activities and my college choice were all calculated decisions on how I can achieve some goal I’m not that enthusiastic about. I don’t see myself loving finance. I don’t want to work on Wall Street or crunch numbers for a corporation whose message I don’t support.
All my life, I’ve paid too much attention to what I think I’m “supposed” to do. When choosing my major, I selected finance, not the journalism degree that I wanted (and later added back in).
“It’s fine,” I told myself. “I’ll thank myself later.” It’s not fine, and I’m not thankful. I wish I had spent my time and effort developing myself as a person, not a robot. I would rather see the world than the interior of a cubicle. I don’t fault my friends that are headed to amazing internships this summer. That’s just not for me at this point in my life.
To me, college is about self-discovery. When the dust settles and I’m back in Yardley, Pennsylvania to face another year of school, I can panic about “real life.” Because somehow, spending a summer traveling isn’t “real life.” I view studying abroad as getting a chance to experience another culture, live a whole new life and enrich myself. There are aspects of studying abroad that I will never be able to replicate for the rest of my life. This is truly an amazing opportunity and I could not be more excited about it.
So this summer, I’ll exchange my briefcase for a suitcase and my internship for the experience of a lifetime. My safety net of friends and family will be here when I get back. For the first time in my life, I’m heading into unfamiliar territory. As I pack my bags to head off to Rome, I am nervous. I have limited knowledge of the Italian language and because I go to Penn State, I don’t know anyone else going. However, in a lot of ways, this adds to the excitement. I know in the long run, it will benefit me just as much as (if not more than) an internship.