Intern Diaries: power-walking through the cons to the pros of a necessary evil

Christine Colleran

When I hear the word intern, visions of frazzled college students power-walk through my head. Their white dress shirts hang partially un-tucked and their temples glisten over furrowed brows. Sweaty palms keep two cups of piping hot coffee in check while their lips barely move in a repeated whisper of two choice curse words. And then they are gone, off to their next assignment.

Having just completed a six-week summer internship that culminated with an eight-day conference in Seattle, Wash., I’m thinking my intern vision was more of a personal prophecy. I was joined, thankfully, by three other Grand Valley State University students, without which I’m not positive I could have resisted the temptation to leap off the Seattle Space Needle – if we had gotten the chance to see it or anything.

Let me just begin by examining our wardrobe for the conference. Red polo shirts should be illegal. End of story. Fire-engine red has this way of making the most even skin tone look blotchy – add that to the fact that our polos only came in male sizes, that – well, let’s just say that we weren’t sleepless in Seattle by our own choosing.
Our tasks, you may wonder? Besides legitimate jobs of conference management and registration we experienced a fair dose of indentured intern servitude. Equipped with radios, we were constantly on the lookout for the go-time call.

“Intern Christine, where is your location?”

After which receiving I would look up, wild-eyed and panicked, meet the eyes of a fellow intern in terrified camaraderie, and take off power-walking.

I had to prepare myself mentally for anything and everything: “The ceremony is in twenty minutes, please polish the crystal awards on the stage,” was one of my commands.

Another request: “We really need ones,” as I was handed a giant stack of $5 bills and sent off running through downtown Seattle like a desperate, red polo-ed fool begging for singles at every store, movie theater and bar in my path.

These jobs were added on to 12- or 13-hour days, and despite being in this amazing city, at the end of them we just wanted to take our shoes off (in a safe place) and sink into the hot tub.

In the heat of the conference, I was unsure that I was gaining anything from this summer internship, yet looking back on it the experience was invaluable. The staff of the company worked us into the ground, but it wasn’t unreasonable. It was intern work, and somebody had to do it.

In all honesty, it’s the intern work that allows you to recognize strengths you didn’t know you had. Nothing pushes you to be resourceful like a half-an-hour to change $100 worth of fives into ones, and nothing tests your patience like dealing politely with customers after a 12-hour day.

The intern experience is a necessary evil, and I will be that much better in my next job thanks to the company I worked for this summer.

In regards to red polos, however, I still say we burn em’ all.

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