Gaining an Internship, Losing an Opportunity

While wandering around the Amherst campus from mid-February to spring break, it’s hard not to feel a profound wave of stress. You could be excused if you expected the snow on the ground had to stay well into finals period in May. This existential stress, however, is different and far more pervasive than a scramble for grades. It makes students of all class years and majors constantly ask themselves: “What am I doing with the rest of my life?” Internship season has arrived at Amherst.
Amherst students see themselves as the best of the best. De- spite how young we are and how many careers we have left to explore, many of us feel we must have a plan. One political science major has to get a finance internship with an immediate job offer. Pre-med students feel the need to take the summer to study for the MCAT so they can tackle medical school immediately (sometimes after a gap year). Not to mention law school, fellowships and consulting jobs. In order to fulfill all these ambitious goals, we Amherst students feel the need to pad our resumes with the most relevant non-academic experiences. The Career Center and the student body, especially after sophomore and junior years, begin to care less about seeking out experience for experience’s sake and more about how good it will look on a one-page sheet of paper desperately emailed out to whoever will take it.

In our scramble for the most competitive summer internships and our constant states of stress, we lose sight of the possibilities that our summers afford us. The original point of internships is to allow us to explore our interests. We’re supposed to branch out both geographically and ideologically during these few summer breaks that we have. College is universally seen as the time in our lives when we can explore new opportunities that are hard to get afterwards. Our summers are no exception.

Yet the expectations and opportunities set up by the Amherst Career Center have made this ideal increasingly difficult to achieve. Firstly, many students don’t have the funding to simply travel outside of studying abroad, and the dismantling of programs devoted to teaching abroad, such as Amherst China Initiative, make international internships even harder to get. The “hot jobs” in finance and consulting the Center continually, almost exclusively advertises promote this “direct-to-job” after-college mentality. Ultimately, Amherst students shouldn’t lose sight of the potential experiences they can have in the overpowering wake of the job search. Internships are meant to challenge and excite us while exposing us to new fields, not to pigeonhole us into certain others. We’ll have many jobs in our lives, not just one after graduating. Multiple, diverse experiences that excite you will only help you figure out what your passions are in the long run.