The end of the semester is rapidly approaching, and my plans for the summer are at the forefront of my mind. The April 1 deadline for various internships and study abroad programs has long passed. Once the decisions for those applications come in, I will have to decide what I will do over the summer.
As the semester progressed, I became more and more uncertain about exactly what I wanted to do during the summer. At first, I figured I would live and work in Charlottesville. This plan didn’t seem too complicated — I’m already so familiar with Charlottesville. However, it proved to be stressful — where would I live, and where would I work? Then further questions arose, such as should I do an internship instead or go back home? There are so many factors to take into consideration, which can lead to several different outcomes.
When my friends would discuss their plans, I found myself constantly reevaluating my own plans. Specifically, the prospect of studying abroad piqued my interest. I’ve studied abroad in London once before, so I didn’t think I would study abroad again in my remaining time at the University. However, I wanted to keep all my options open — if I did decide I wanted to study abroad on a whim, I could.
As I was still contemplating the idea of studying abroad, I quickly opened an application for the U.Va. in Oxford summer program two days before the deadline. I felt like I was scrambling — writing a personal statement and getting passport photos done. Is it worth the time and effort to send in a thoughtful application when I have absolutely no idea what I really want to do?
While it would be a great opportunity to fulfill an elective requirement for my Public Policy and Leadership minor, I also have financial concerns. I would inevitably spend money abroad on various activities while keeping up with expenses in Charlottesville, such as rent for the summer months. Of course, this wouldn’t be the case if I stayed in Charlottesville and worked instead.
On the other hand, I also have to consider the value of an abroad experience. Although it’s only a three-week program, I know it would be an amazing opportunity. I often succumb to the “you only live once” mentality — I have plenty of time to work in the future, but when will I be able to go abroad and take a class while experiencing a different culture and way of life after graduating?
However, choosing to participate in career and pre-professional opportunities, such as an internship in your desired field is also a reasonable decision. Since this is my last summer before graduating, I feel like I have to sacrifice something. I can’t help but think about how what I do this summer can have implications on my post-graduate plans. I feel so fixated on the future, but at the same time, I desperately want to reject this mentality of worrying about how every decision I make will affect my future.
How do I decide what I should prioritize?
We all have professional and career goals, so it’s easy to compare yourself to others and what others are doing. This can lead to a sense of inadequacy, especially because applying to jobs or internships is a very frustrating process, and rejections are discouraging. I’ve applied to many internships before, and never heard back from them to move forward in the process. I’ve also left interviews knowing that I wouldn’t get the position.
Despite these difficulties, I’ve tried to create various plans to give myself options, and then I weigh the pros and cons of each option. I also seek advice from my friends, family and professors to help me decide what I should do. Although it’s easier said than done, I also try to focus on my own circumstances and opportunities rather than comparing myself to others because we are all in different positions.
Rest assured, you are not alone. Just about everyone is dealing with difficult summer decisions, and what you do this summer does not necessarily determine your future. You can take comfort in the fact that this is a common experience for most students, and seek support from others in this precarious time.