Why would senior John Tanasijevich give up a summer at the beach to spend hours in front of a laminating machine?
The answer is simple – a summer internship. This year, many SAS students chose to let go of the stereotypical summer lifestyle abroad to intern with an organization in Singapore. While they may have missed out on some shopping sprees and five-hour naps, their own experiences were just as worthwhile.
John worked at Marina Bay Sands for their Sands for Singapore charity event this summer. The event was designed to give back to the local community through action-packed activities, and this year, MBS raised funds for over 80 local charities. Participating in this event also helped John see how service and business combined.
“I learned a lot about corporate social responsibility and how it’s important for companies to respect their community and give back,” John said. “I was worried that when I go into business in the future I would have to give up service work, but now I realize it’s possible to do both at once.”
John’s work was anything but easy, and was even tedious at times. Every day, he bought different materials, called different representatives to sort out the logistics of the event, and did a lot of laminating. He was the youngest intern and worked with people aged 22 to 55 years old.
“The most difficult part was just the sheer amount of raw hours I needed to spend doing the same monotonous thing over and over. There was a ton of meticulous, precise work that had to finished to get one small thing done,” John said.
John’s work was mostly secretarial, but senior Ishaan Madan’s summer internship in Singapore, on the other hand, was in a completely different category.
“I worked with a professor at INSEAD University for five weeks. I researched and organized data to help him build a software program that he hopes to release in the near future,” Ishaan
Although his daily tasks (ie. compiling 108,000 lines in Excel and playing with the parameters of the program) were academic, they were far from typical schoolwork. Whereas at school, students have structured assignments with due dates, Ishaan had a lot of free time. He usually had three to four tasks on his to-do list and had to manage how much time to spend on each one. Ishaan also had to learn how to “filter” his language to be more concise.
“When you’re talking to an adult that is years ahead of you in intelligence, and even has a PhD, you have to recognize that not everything you want to say is stuff he/she will value or find beneficial,” Ishaan said. “So you have to learn how to present ideas effectively.”
The lessons he learned about the real world even impacted his future career path.
“My plan so far was to get a degree and go into the corporate world, but this sort of opened my eyes to the world of academia – it’s so cool because it’s a creative process and you’re not limited by being stuck at a desk,” Ishaan said.
Senior Robert Ostrom’s summer internship affected his future career path, too. Robert spent the summer working at the U.S. embassy’s community liaison office. Most of his hours were spent traveling around Singapore taking time lapse videos of different iconic Singaporean places for the embassy’s “expat videos.” Along the way, he learned first-hand about how the government works and what working for the government could look like.
“I was already pretty certain about majoring in politics or law, but this internship definitely impacted my future in that I will now be able to say that I have worked with the government before,” Robert said.
Perhaps the biggest argument that people make against student internships is that students will often have to get coffee, file papers, and do other simple but meaningless tasks. In other words, while it may look good on a college resume, the actual working experience is not a true learning experience. Robert admitted he was required to do a lot of busywork, but for him, these seemingly useless tasks served as a big life lesson.
“A lot of the time, I would just be shredding papers, making copies, or waiting around. But it’s just a part of making your way up into society. You have to start by doing some internships, and you aren’t always going to be given meaningful tasks until your boss knows you have the experience and work ethic to complete them,” Robert said.
The common thread between these three student internships was that a lot can be accomplished during one summer, and that students do not need to spend thousands of dollars travelling abroad to find opportunities.
“My internship was completely worthwhile, and I would definitely do it all over again,” John said.
Ishaan also said he would do his internship again, and gave some advice to underclassmen.
“Some kids base their summer plans on ticking boxes for college admissions – I don’t think that helps. Summer is a time when you should obviously relax, but it is also a time for you to do things you’re really interested in that you wouldn’t get to do during the school year,” Ishaan said.
Of course, different students will pursue their interests in different ways, whether it is through taking a summer college course, doing service work, or taking on a part-time job. An internship is just one of many activities that students can choose to take on over their summers. But for those who choose to do so, it is important to remember that opportunities can always we be found right on this little red dot on the equator – all you have to do is look for them.