By: Pavithra Chidambaram
As a sophomore last year, I knew I absolutely had to get a summer internship. I found myself comparing my work experience to those around me, who had different majors and interests. I hadn’t managed to get an internship after my freshman year (no thanks to the pandemic) and felt like I was behind compared to my peers. Regardless of if it was interesting to me or not, I was desperate to get any internship. Looking through the College of Agriculture career fair employers, I couldn’t really find a company that I thought I would like to work at, but I applied to as many as I could anyways. I got a couple interviews and felt grateful that I was being considered for those positions at all, even if they weren’t exactly places I’d enjoy working at. By Thanksgiving time, I had already accepted an internship as a research intern at an agricultural seed producing company. I was so blinded by the fact that I had actually gotten an internship, that I didn’t realize that the company and work that I’d be doing was not aligned with my career goals. As the summer got closer and closer, I realized that I was dreading the internship more and more.
Throughout the internship, I tried my best to be optimistic and learn as much as I could. I enjoyed the experience of working as a team with my coworkers and learning about the private industry environment for the first time. Although the internship was a valuable work experience for me, it also helped me self-reflect and learn about who I was as a person. I realized that I couldn’t just work at any company because they offered me a position, and that the agricultural research field may not be the one for me. Thinking back on the internship, I have mixed feelings. I counted down the days until the end of my internship and spent a lot of time looking at the clock waiting for the days to end. At the same time, I made great connections with my supervisors and coworkers who helped me get through the long days and supported my interests. Entering junior year, I knew I had to take a different approach to finding an internship if I wanted to get better outcomes at the end of the summer. This time, I’m hoping to be more patient. I’m speaking with classmates to learn about their internship experiences and exploring areas in environmental science that I wouldn’t have thought of before. I may not have an internship lined up by Thanksgiving this year, but I now know that a lot of NRES internships aren’t even posted until after January. Instead of comparing myself to my peers and feeling left behind now, I feel a larger sense of togetherness. I’m looking forward to finding a better work opportunity this summer.