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#HonorsProblems: To Intern or Not to Intern?

The following blog post was written by Peer Advisor Emily, a junior Elliott School student studying international affairs and Spanish and Latin American languages, literatures, and cultures. Emily is currently studying abroad in Argentina!

“So where are you interning this semester?”

The question everyone seemed to be asking me during that first week of my sophomore spring semester. I’d just returned from a relaxing, if not slightly boring, winter break at home, and so while I should have been feeling well-rested and ready for the semester ahead, instead I was frantically stressed. Why? Because I hadn’t managed to nail down a spring internship yet.

GW students, and especially Honors kids, are nothing if not ambitious and hardworking. It’s no surprise then that many students take advantage of the availability of awesome internship opportunities in the Foggy Bottom area during their academic semesters – which can be a unique and exciting experience. However, sometimes our ambitions and willingness to push ourselves actually work against us. Sometimes we feel pressure to take on too much even though we know deep down that we’re not going to be able to juggle it all at once.

This is exactly the predicament that I found myself facing at the beginning of that spring semester last year. One voice in my head (the driven, professionally-minded, go-getter in me) was convinced I needed an internship, while another voice (my slightly more rational side) kept reminding me that a more relaxed semester was just what I needed. The fall semester prior had been tough — I’d taken on a time-consuming leadership role in a student org, juggled membership in several other student orgs, and struggled through five difficult classes, all while trying to get enough sleep and spend time with friends. I’d ended the semester exhausted and burnt out, feeling like I hadn’t put my best effort into my academics or extracurriculars because I’d been spread so thin. So while a 20+ hour/week internship would certainly look good on my resume, I knew deep down that I needed a semester to get myself back on track.

After about two weeks of nervous contemplation, frantic last-minute application submissions and even a first-round interview, I finally decided that I would not intern that semester. Instead, I would invest myself in my classes (which I was already loving), my extracurriculars, my friendships and my sleep cycle. Essentially, I would allow myself a semester to be a normal college student, something that I believe is too often undervalued amongst GW students.

In the end, this decision was exactly what I needed. By the end of the spring semester, I felt invigorated mentally, physically and academically. Instead of being burnt out, I felt fully prepared for a busy upcoming summer of interning in DC. Perhaps most importantly, I proved to myself that it’s okay to trust my gut and say no to over-commitment, even though it often feels like the norm in college. This is all to say that while being an intern can be an exciting part of the GW experience, it’s important to enjoy being a college student, too. Learning where to draw your personal line between being ambitious and being healthy and happy is a lesson that will most certainly serve you in the future.