I am deflated. I’m writing this from my bedroom in Virginia, where I’m fighting whatever jet lag did to dislodge my circadian rhythm and the last wheezes of a summer cold. And the inability to condense my experiences into words. And…ennui?
I’ve officially closed out my summer with Paideia, along with the projects I built or helped others build over the last two months. They all live on somewhere in cyberspace: hundreds of interactions with Nexus contacts stored in an Excel sheet; a page of drafted social media posts saved for next year. Part of an email I wrote for a fundraising campaign popped up in my inbox—it was chosen to be sent with a final copy to supporters!
I also finished my grant proposal draft, which focused on funding a microgrant program for Aequora student leaders. It snowballed into its final form after hours of research on potential foundations and literacy statistics, along with many questions for Paideia’s outreach/education team. I had the chance to present it to institute staff and other interns at our program’s final presentations, which we followed with a trip to a restaurant of peak globalism: an Irish pub in Rome that plays tracks from Pink Floyd and Santana. I’m left with a mix of gratitude and confidence and listlessness. Now what?
There is one thing I have to do right now, or so it’s been suggested: to offer tips to anyone else gearing up for the next season of internship applications. With all due respect to the INP team, this idea makes me chuckle a little. I’ve only just straggled into my junior year! Whatever I know about anything is engulfed by what I don’t know. I got at least two bags of Italian-brand chips stuck in the vending machine outside the Paideia office. I often feel like this when I try to answer that dreaded question about What You’re Doing After College:
In fact, the story of how I came into this particular internship is probably not the exemplar you’d find in a career center brochure. I was keeping a running list of the of marketing-education-nonprofit positions I was interested in, but only applied to a risky few. I didn’t pop into a Resume Rush or scope out Handshake emails. (All of these are things I’d recommend, and that I will likely be doing before next summer!) I can boil it down to a sentence: I’ve been supporting Paideia on social media for years, I saw a post about this program, I applied, and I was very, very fortunate.
Because of this, some of the best advice I can offer is to stay open to opportunity, and let what interests you speak for itself. I didn’t have the chance to do Paideia’s educational programs in high school, or to travel to New York City for its one-of-a-kind spoken Latin conference (it’s on my bucket list!). But I stressed how I’d heard about this organization and how much I value their work in education whenever I had an opening to on my application and in interview, highlighting that I’d done research. You can also look for ways to spin your skills and accomplishments and stay-up-past-2am passion projects into a kind of story about why you’re a candidate of interest. You didn’t just close shifts in dining services: you nailed a school-work balance and negotiated with others and proved you’re not afraid of hard work. Your disparate two majors and three minors aren’t weird: they show your breadth of interests and that you can communicate about dozens of things.
If you are, like me, studying liberal arts—maybe even classics!—there are (cough) great resources for finding others from similar backgrounds in your field of interest. This is maybe the most valuable thing I’ve learned this summer–the power of connections. Besides working on Nexus, it’s impressive to watch the chain of events that can unfold in real time when someone says “Yeah, I know someone” as you talk about contacting foundations or reaching new volunteers or working with the media. You can almost imagine the foot connecting with the proverbial door for an opening kick in real time. I’ll poke fun at the bizarre-to-me social conventions of some of these networking events for the rest of my life, but there still is something to be said for reaching out to other humans (and good thing, too!).
The one piece of certifiably non-dubious advice I can give, though, is never stop saying or writing thank you: at the end of interviews, as a follow-up email, at the end of your internship. Be thankful to have had the chance to learn something wherever you end up–and, for that matter, don’t let where you end up become an all-consuming dagger point of stress.
With that, thank you to anyone who’s kept up with these posts, and those who contributed to the funds supporting me, and everyone I’ve met this summer. I don’t know what happens after this, exactly, but I’m trying to be patient in figuring it out. It will hopefully involve more gelato. It will definitely inspire more to write about.