Learning Opportunities Embedded in Summer Internships

When you jump into the pool, you feel nothing but coldness. However, if you use the pool’s stairs and gradually lower yourself down, the freezing sensation subsides. Slowly, you acclimate yourself to your new environment.

When you jump into the pool, you feel nothing but coldness. However, if you use the pool’s stairs and gradually lower yourself down, the freezing sensation subsides. Slowly, you acclimate yourself to your new environment.

This summer, I had the opportunity to intern at a property management company. I imagined myself translating documents, analyzing costs and profits in Excel, or learning the art of sales and negotiations. My wishes came true, but not completely. Initially I found my job discouraging. Confusion and dissatisfaction battled for my attention as I got transferred from an engaging environment to an isolated room, doing menial tasks. I was afraid of this new place I was in. However, over the summer, I discovered that internships serve as the “pool’s stairs” for your career. Internships offer students the opportunities to hold temporary job positions in an organization to gain work experience or fulfill their school’s requirements. Despite the initial hopelessness, I learned how menial tasks can open the door to various learning opportunities.

On the first few days, my co-workers exposed me to the real estate world. We traveled to a Thai province, Pattaya, in order to inspect a condominium. My co-workers taught me how to examine defects in different types of rooms. The next afternoon, I had the opportunity to enter the title deeds’ information into Excel and calculated the difference between expected and real costs. Afterward, my colleague took me to the company’s sale booth in a big mall. I witnessed the interactions between a saleswoman and potential buyers; she was an expert on the condominium and advertised it very well. In these three days, I acquired knowledge from multiple people and was thankful for their generosity.

All of a sudden, I got moved from the marketing department to the accounting one. I had to leave an interactive environment and sat in a secluded area. Stacks of papers captured my attention in an otherwise empty room; an accountant explained how I should organize and place documents into binders for storage. Filing thousands of tax invoices into their respective categories became my job. At first, I could not find a reason behind my transition. What mistakes could I have made without realizing? Then I decided to speak to the people around me. After asking around, my manager informed me that most marketing assignments are too “complex” for a high school student, so she believed that the accounting department’s tasks would suit my ability. I could not argue with her as my mother insisted that I should be grateful for any work the company gives me. So, I accepted my fate and began the dreaded work of mundane tasks.

Although Lawrentians benefit from “amazing internships” , they can learn as much by performing menial tasks. Students will witness the unglamorous side of a job; nevertheless, they have to accept the reality that their expectations are not met. Many high schoolers envision their working environments as a collaborative place where intellectual people gather to achieve a common goal. However, there are also aspects of the office where you have to work alone, isolated from the crowd. I was fortunate enough to experience this side of the workforce. Filing documents confronted my expectation about an “ideal” working environment where I will have the opportunity to constantly perform intellectually stimulating tasks such as conducting a survey or analyzing data. This task opens my mind to the fact that there are people in the world who perform these jobs that society perceive as “unglamorous”. In our life, it is important to distinguish reality from expectations and be prepared to perform the job even though it might not conform to our standard.

Performing menial tasks also opened my eyes to the detail and care that goes into a job. Firstly, I sort the tax invoices according to their colors. Then, I divided the piles in response to their numbers: one pile for the first fifty documents, another for the latter fifty, and the cycle repeated. Finally, I organized these piles based on their respective months. Precision and attention to detail were the keys to successfully filing tax documents. I never realized that a simple task would demand a great degree of accuracy. After my internship, I became more appreciative of these “unglamorous” tasks. I learned how a boring job, despite its small scale, can have a big impact on the company. If I haven’t sorted the tax invoices into different piles, the accountants would have to waste their precious time searching for that “one” document. To put it briefly, I learn how a small-scale project such as categorizing tax invoices contribute to the bigger picture. My menial task make the company more efficient in the long run, so other people in the office can devote their time to achieving the company’s goal. In the end, filing documents changed my perspective about the reality of a job. You don’t always get to do the “glamorous” tasks and the outwardly minor tasks actually contribute to the bigger goal.

The lessons I learnt from this internship experience can be applied directly to any Lawrentian’s journey. More than half of the student body would agree that they have at least one unstimulating class during their Lawrenceville career. Instead of complaining or reacting negatively to these circumstances, you should open your mind to possible learning opportunities. Perhaps, you will come across interesting facts in a subject you never thought of before. Furthermore, by taking courses at Lawrenceville, you will likely encounter failures and discover what classes you like or dislike. Boring tasks can give you clues on what you don’t want to do in the future. Furthermore, it can motivate you to sharpen the skills necessary to get a good job. That way, you won’t regret spending your whole life performing menial tasks in exchange for salary. More importantly, the relationships you form with your classmates will enhance the collaborative skills you will use in the future. In the end, it is up to your perception on whether something is mundane or interesting. What do you choose to see?

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