Welcome to the real world.
That’s basically the sort of feeling I got almost immediately after returning home from my university last month.
Technically, I haven’t actually graduated yet, but I walked across the stage and accepted my diploma cover from the dean of the journalism department at my school.
All that stands in my way now is finishing my internship and one final class I’m taking this summer. Mere technicalities, really.
So, again, welcome to the real world, Michelle. The world of early mornings, hard work and the always-scary, ever-looming student loan bills. I thought I was prepared for it, but what did I know?
I had been living in a bubble of collegiate superiority. I knew what I wanted, and nothing was going to stand in my way.
It’s always been that way for me. I’ve been through a few major transitions in my life and none of them have ever really bothered me. I graduated from high school. I earned my associate’s degree. I moved two states away from my family and everyone I knew to go to college.
I left the country and everything I knew behind to study abroad for a year. I lived alone for the first time. All of these major milestones I took in stride. It was always just the next step.
I went into graduating from my university and entering the real world,thinking it would be the same. For the most part, it was.
But now, a month into my internship, I realize I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
Sure, I still prefer actual work over college, but school was never my favorite place to be, so that makes sense.
Besides, I’m doing what I love at this internship — I’m writing. That’s great. But I consistently have to wake up early in the morning to get ready for work and arrive on time.
I have to be productive for many consecutive hours a day, instead of just an hour-and-a-half here, and an hour-and-a-half there for classes. It’s hard.
I received a pretty well-rounded education but that education was severely lacking on the important things. Sure, I went to school full time and held a part-time job at the same time, while keeping up with the vast amounts of homework my professors decided I needed to do in my senior year. But I had a lot of time to do nothing but read, watch TV, play video games, hang out with my friends, etc.
That didn’t prepare me for the realities of life after college. I wake up super early in the morning, immediately start working and am productive for eight full hours, five days a week. By the time I get home, my brain is fried and I’m too tired to do anything.
I always thought I was prepared for the real world. I’ve had a job since I was 17, while also being a full-time student. The real world was just a job. Big deal.
I’m learning now that without this transitory internship that’s shifting me from the schooling environment which has cushioned me my entire life, into the harsh world that is the rest of my life, I might as well be stuck in the middle of the Pacific without so much as a life vest.
I am so grateful that this internship was a requirement for my degree, or else I would have just jumped right in to a job with both feet without so much as testing the waters first.
It makes me wonder about all those students whose degrees don’t require practical experience before graduation.
The words “in over your head” seem appropriate.
I’ve come to the conclusion, in the weeks since I started my internship, that internships are amazing, wonderful things.
You meet people in your desired field of work. You make connections. You earn experience (which always looks great on a resume) and most of all, you learn what it’s like to live in reality for the first time.
If you are going to school and your major doesn’t require an internship, I suggest you complete one anyway.
Complete two, if you can mange to work that into your schedule.
Take it from me: you don’t want to enter the real world with no idea what’s in store for you because, even though you may think all your years in school have prepared you for a real job, you’re wrong.
Michelle Beahm is interning this summer for the Central Kitsap Reporter, the Bremerton Patriot and the Port Orchard Independent.