College is about making life-long friends at student organizations and becoming best bros with your professors. It’s also about partying at three different on-campus dorms until 2 a.m. and getting up the next morning to cram for midterms with a hangover. It’s about hard academics, aspirations and high hopes for the future.
However, college is also about competition, peer pressure and stress of the upcoming adult life. Every spring semester when summer waits right around the corner, everyone takes on an invisible load of pressure often called the “summer plan.”
College students only get three summers for college students. What you do during those summers defines a big part of your college life, and more importantly, your future career.
At Boston College, everyone over-achieves and over-commits. We all vie for an enviable, resume-worthy experience in an ideal summer plan.
The long, apprehensive process of achieving that ideal plan begins early. Many of the so-called-heartless business students in the Carroll School of Management secure a summer job or internship working for a company (some from familial connections) around Christmastime. They rest their pretty little heads all spring long without a care.
For many others, the process starts at various points in the spring semester, with a series of fanatic online industry browsing, networking at career fairs and attending career treks, followed by editing resume and cover letters over and over and submitting applications. And then…you wait.
The waiting part is hard, waiting for an interview, then waiting after the interview. For weeks, you’re left hanging, waiting for an answer. If you’re really lucky, you get an internship and your summer plan is set. Phew! And if you’re lucky, you may get an email thanking you for applying but apologizing that you are not what they want. Well, at least now you can find closure and move on.
But most of the time, you never hear back from the companies, not even a rejection email.
I spent the final weeks of my sophomore years waiting. I applied for so many different internships that I lost track. I got zero responses. It was hard. But the hardest part about the waiting involved seeing your friends and roommates gradually settling on their summer plans. As I watched them celebrate, I felt as if my self-confidence and hope had flown away from my body little by little, until I was left agitated and depressed and couldn’t sleep at night.
I finally ran out of options but to recourse to my plan C—summer classes. I convinced myself that as long as I stayed in Boston, I was fine. The idea of going home felt like a sign of failure. However, the night before my summer classes were supposed to start, I got an email informing me that the classes were canceled due to a low number of registrants.
I laughed out loud at the email, at how amusingly tricky life could be. My roommates looked at me worrying that I sat on the verge of delirium.
I was officially out of a plan.
After several days of desperate attempt to stay in Boston, I flew home. For the first time in four years that I lived in the States, I didn’t rejoice over the thought of going home to my parents. I felt like a failure, like many young college graduates I heard who had to go back to China because they weren’t good enough to find a job abroad.
The night before I flew back home, I contacted a friend whose mom had some connections at the Beijing Television Station. I got the opportunity to intern there with the friend for a couple of weeks. It was an act of sheer desperation, just to not look so bad when I went home empty-handed. It was nothing like those marketing and PR internships that I applied for all spring long.
However, these couple of weeks were like a glistening stream, breaking through my turbid state of life filled with self-doubts and uncertainty.
I shadowed a full-time journalist for almost three weeks. Soon enough, I fell in love with the excitement of running in the field, talking to total strangers, attending exclusive events and rushing for deadlines.
Gradually, I started to love the idea of journalism. To me, journalism should ethically unveil what’s hidden beneath the surface and inform the public what they deserve to know. Once I knew that I put my own stamp on something that would contribute to some greater cause, the process of contacting sources, conducting interviews and even the arduous process of writing were all sources of joy and exuberance.
I felt like I had a purpose in college and in life.
After that summer, I started tapping into the journalism realm, something I didn’t dare considering just three months earlier. I wrote for the school newspaper, took journalism classes, networked with professionals, found related books to devour on and applied for additional internships. Magically, once I’ve got myself figured out, every piece of my life puzzle began falling into place.
Now a senior in college, I’m applying for graduate school programs to further pursue journalism combined with international affairs. Looking back at the messy and depressed sophomore me, I couldn’t help but smile.
Yes, it was a difficult time and the feeling of weakness and desperation still gives me the chills. But it was necessary and I’m glad that it happened early on in my college career. Without this distressing experience, I’d probably still be clueless of what I truly want to do. I’d still enjoy my work-hard-play-hard college life, but the future would seem foggy and daunting.
In college you might find yourself in a disheartened position where you don’t know what you truly want or love. My advice? Embrace it. Dig deeper into that void. Despite how empty and dark it seems, you will find something truly valuable and worth pursuing there.