College is confusing. One minute we’re told to focus on consoling our neglected GPAs and the next we’re being criticized for not being involved in enough activities on campus.
Being a people-pleaser, I filled my junior year with equal parts of both, unknowingly creating a genuine recipe for growth and development better than I ever could have created on purpose.
The day I interviewed for an internship with College Lifestyles™, I had to bake cupcakes. Not just any cupcakes, but experimental desserts, if you will. It was the final hurrah before the end of my semester-long career as a food scientist. I was a nervous wreck.
The avocado-infused treats came out fine, but my phone interview was at 11 a.m. It was 10:50 and I had chocolate quite literally all over me. My apartment was a 10-minute sprint from the top floor of the building that housed the kitchen.
No stranger to mad dashes from one commitment to the next, I traveled hastily back to my apartment, not caring much who wondered why I’d gotten into a fight with a bin of cocoa powder. I was focused only on the phone call that was coming and what I was supposed to say to convince someone I’d never met that I was not crazy, liked to write and knew a thing or two about food.
What made me nervous was that I didn’t know whether or not I really wanted to intern with a magazine, or why I wanted to add another Extra Thing to my overflowing pan of collegiate involvement. I’d turned in the application at the last minute, just barely convincing myself to hit submit, even though I almost didn’t.
I had never written anything other than a paper or a blog post before. I didn’t know anything about being professional or working with a team other than my experience with group projects.
What I wanted was to perform a different kind of experiment: with so many professors insisting that I choose between an English or dietetics major, not both, I wanted to prove there was a way to use both skill sets to do something that, as far as I knew, no one else at my university had ever done before: write for a magazine.
So I answered my phone when Shelly called me that day, with chocolate under my fingernails and cocoa powder lightly dusting one arm, and took a chance. A risk. A dare.
I had no idea a virtual internship could change my life, but it did.
Since accepting a writing position with CL in December 2012, I have gone from fitness writer to health editor to assistant to our fabulous managing editor, all in less than three years. I have not only learned more working with the organization than I could have in school, but I discovered my dream: to write about nutrition and to make the world a better place no matter how uncertain I am about it in the beginning.
Also, I like working with people, and apparently they like me back, because they’ve picked me as intern of the month more times than I can count. This never would have happened if I hadn’t had faith CL could teach me new things, certain skills formal education never could.
We make all sorts of excuses why we can’t fit this or that into our schedules, but if you’re presented with the opportunity to do something outside the academic spectrum, don’t let it pass you by, no matter your prior commitments. To taste that opportunity, you have to seek it out. The experience you’ll gain is worth the time and effort.
An internship is a step just below a job. Treat it that way, and more opportunities will follow.
You might even get to be intern of the month once or twice.
Images courtesy of Meg Dowell.