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Is my career path shiny enough for Carleton?

As internship season has come into full swing, the rush to show off bright and shiny summer opportunities has arrived. And the rush is accompanied by stress, anxiety and feelings of belittlement if you haven’t received an internship offer yet. After two months of pure horror of still being unemployed over the summer—and consequently post-Carleton—I gained a valuable insight. The insight was not my own realization, but a point in the right direction from my adviser who probably aged faster after dealing with my anxious self.

The realization was that we don’t have a lot of time left. The spring of our youth is too short for us to stress about career paths and fancy unpaid internships. Now, as a poor international student myself, I don’t want to belittle anyone’s circumstances—whether it be summer jobs for financial support, or internships to add to résumés because of parental pressures. However, it did make me think about the internal pressures Carls suffer that make us blindly chase these internships without considering our personal satisfaction with how we want to spend another youthful summer.

One of these pressures is the status of our education. All the philosophy, political science, cinema and media studies majors reading this know exactly what I mean. What is this degree worth? If you don’t want to go into law or medicine, what can we do? It’s funny that we came to this small liberal arts college, a place where we have the chance to explore different subjects and topics which may help us gain interdisciplinary techniques to break new ground, only to chase conventional pathways and definitions of success. When we see people interning for Google or a Hollywood producer, we naturally feel like we are lagging behind.

The truth however, is that these are not the only places where students find internships. The truth is that these kind of prestigious internships are the most overtly and consistently publicized and celebrated. If you want to be on the cover of the Voice, you better bring in something bourgeois. No one wants to see your name if you volunteered at your local elementary school or spent a summer chilling with family.

At Carleton, we get so entangled in the idea of core skills and learning goals that we forget about human connections and experiences that may be beyond a contract and reflection essays. Does spending three months with your family—who you won’t see more than once a couple years after getting a career—not teach you anything? Why is your internship as a librarian not considered “ambitious” enough? If you’re not saving starving African children, is your volunteering really “worth” a fellowship? These pressures that invade our minds and emails throughout the year make us chase opportunities that only add another line in our resume, not necessarily another experience that we may look back on with fondness and love.

So it is easy to forget why we came to a small liberal arts college in the first place. We may not get straight roads to big money careers in finance, law, or medicine, but our interactions, experiences and cumulative education are preparing us for jobs that may not even exist right now. I would rather look back at Carleton and remember the breakfast I cooked at 2 a.m. with friends, or that amazing conversation I had with that professor who inspired me to live in a country I have never been to for a month, or all the other times I wasn’t busy comparing my $10/hour to someone else’s $15/hour.

In the end, we all deserve a break. We deserve to spend time with our families for a month and we deserve being satisfied in doing things that may not be shiny enough for Carleton. If the world is ending, I would rather spend time doing things that bring a smile on my face without having a camera in front of me.

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