The end of the semester is wrapping up for us here at Illinois. There’s only a few weeks left before summer. I am so excited to get back home and relax! The sun is going to shine and I am going to be so happy. Since summer is rolling around, lots of people are stressing over summer internships. This is reasonable stress but I want to talk to you guys about different options you have for your summers. Summer doesn’t always have to be filled with work. There are plenty of options.
I’m going to kick this off talking about what I have done the past two summers. After my freshman year was (to this day), the best summer of my life. I applied for the Illini 4000 2017 Bike America Team (I should really just do a blog post on I4K. Noted, keep an eye out.) and made the team! I was so excited. So what does that mean? That meant that the summer after my freshman year I was going to bike across the country. NYC to San Francisco, 76 days, 4,800 miles, with 26 strangers…I was stoked. In case you haven’t read any of my previous posts, Illini 4000 is a student-run nonprofit (RSO) that raises money for cancer research and patient support services through annual cross country bike rides. Throughout my freshman year, we trained, fundraised, planned the trip, and learned how to safely ride as a team on the road.
I cannot emphasize this enough, it was the best summer ever. Every day you wake up, hop on your bike and get to the next city. My team was composed of the coolest, smartest, sweetest 26 people I have ever met. Every time I think about it I can’t help but smile. I can’t put the experience into words so instead, here is a video one of my teammates made from footage he took along the ride. I cry every time I see it.
Keep your eyes out for my blog about just Illini 4000!
Any summers after 2017 were pretty hard to beat. Last summer (between sophomore year and junior year), I spent it on campus. I really wanted a quiet summer where I could really just sit back relax and work on bettering myself. I worked as an ISTAR (Illinois Student Admissions Representatives). We’re the cool kids in orange shirts who give tours and help students register for classes. I made a lot of new friends and got the opportunity to help incoming freshmen with the registration struggle (it’s not really a struggle but realizing you move out of your home in a few months is crazy!). Since working as an ISTAR was really flexible and my boss was really nice, I got the opportunity to travel a lot. Last summer alone I went on road trips to Colorado (twice) and Canada. Before college, I did not travel much so three trips was a lot for me. I really learned about myself during that summer.
This summer I am planning on working purely on my research (in hopes of getting published senior year). I currently do research under my advisor, Dr. Ann Witmer (the coolest person you will ever meet), through the Illinois International Center for Contextual Engineering. I realized that I should make another post about my research and how I got into it (Noted. Keep your eye out part two). I am not sure if I am going to spend my summer on campus or not but I am very lucky to have the option. No matter what I do, I’m sure I’ll be fine.
So now you know everything I have done in my summers. I hope I have relieved any potential stress you might have about what you’re going to do with your college break. I want to reassure everyone who is searching for an internship or not searching that whatever you’re doing is fine! Here are some tips on how to prepare yourself for the internship search and what to do if you don’t want one or did not get one.
Tip 1: Apply and research early
It’s often said that freshmen don’t get internships. Well, this does not have to be true. If you start searching early, learn the deadlines and what each application wants, take advantage of your resources, you can make yourself a competitive candidate. The sooner you apply, the sooner you’ll hopefully hear back. Uncertainty is one of the main stressors when searching for internships. Your first semester is the craziest one, so don’t stress if you don’t feel like you’re doing enough.
Tip 2: Use your resources
Alright I cannot emphasize this enough. Get to know your professors. They are experts in the field and have spent years building their networks. Ask them about potential internships you’re thinking about or if they have any tips on the application process. Professors have been some of my most valuable resources in college; they are also really cool people!
There are also career fairs that you can go to and speak to companies one-on-one. Suit up, print some resumes, and get your name out there. Even if you don’t know anything about the companies, a casual conversation can potentially lead to something. Ask for tips on the application and try to stand out a bit. If you didn’t bring a suit from home, don’t have a resume, or are not sure how to talk to professionals, go to the career center. Their jobs are literally to prepare you for success. They offer a career closet where you can borrow a suit, as well as resume and cover letter workshops, mock interviews, career planning, and so much more.
In addition, your advisors know the 411. Set up an appointment and ask them questions, especially if you are on any pre-professional track (pre-med, vet, law, etc). They can answer any lingering questions you may have and provide you some insight into the process.
There are so many more resources you can take advantage of while you’re here. I can write an entire blog post about each and every one of them. Use them, thats why they’re here.
Tip 3: Look into backup options
Okay, you hear back and you didn’t get the internship. Well that’s okay because you thought of backup options! Some potential backup options can be to take summer classes (on campus or at home), study abroad, research (blog post coming soon), summer job, Illini 4000, etc. There are a lot more options other than internships, you just have to go out and find them.
Tip 4: Its okay to use summer as a break
Let’s be honest, it’s called a break for a reason. If you want to spend your break relaxing and go home, do it. I say, do what makes you happy and if you need that time for yourself, don’t feel bad about it.
Tip 5: Have Fun
It’s warm and sunny, pop your head phones in and go for a walk. Summer is only three months of the year in Illinois, embrace what you can (regardless of what you’re doing).
Well folks, that wraps this one up. Hope you are all having a great day and enjoy your ride on the college rollercoaster!