The University of Wisconsin-Madison is known for a lot of things: rigorous academics, memorable traditions, exciting athletics, and stunning views. Despite all of these impressive attributes, I consider the students here to be the most valuable assets to UW’s name. I’ve met many individuals in my three years here. Every single one of them are dedicated, hard-working, and driven. It’s impossible not to compare your professional life to the incredible people that you meet, and it’s something that I’ve struggled with as I’ve found my college identity.
To date, I’ve had seven professional internships while attending UW. Each one provided an experience to grow in both my major and industry. I’ve learned valuable insight into what I like doing and what bores me. They have been invaluable in helping me determine what I want to do once I graduate in a few short months.
But this isn’t an ad to encourage you to apply for the next internship you see — I’m here to tell you that not everything is what it seems.
Internships vary in a variety of ways, including how much time and dedication is needed to fulfill them. In the spring of 2022, I worked a semester-long internship at a local business in Madison. I was required to work a minimum of 27 hours a week — Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays with an exception of one day off every other weekend. Let me tell you, it was as difficult as it sounds.
However, from an outside perspective, nobody saw how much I was struggling. All they saw was how exciting my internship was and what I was doing. No one was there to tell me how “cool it was” when I was up until 2 a.m. finishing my homework after finishing a ten hour shift. No one congratulated me on missing out on a friend’s birthday because I had to work. No one sympathized with me when I told them I couldn’t go out to the bars because I had to be up at 7:30 a.m. the next day.
Don’t get me wrong — that internship was crucial in furthering my future career and figuring out what I even want to do. Yet, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to take on, and nobody even knew it.
I understand that not every internship is like this. After all, I’ve had many other internships that I was able to handle quite easily. But for those of you who are struggling? I see you. I’ve been there. I hope you know that you are stronger than you think, and you will get through it.
And if you ever find yourself comparing yourself to others, stop and think for a second. Sometimes it’s difficult to see what is really going on behind-the-scenes and that’s okay. Having an internship doesn’t automatically mean you’ve got your whole life figured out. It’s okay if you are still trying to figure things out and you have no clue what you are going to do with your life. Because guess what?
That’s the exciting part.