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Options for the Summer After College

Options for the Summer After College

Explore your options for the summer after college.

By Molly Seltzer

March 16, 2009

In a rarely quoted yet invaluable line from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Marlow says, “One ship is very much like another and the sea is always the same.”

I’m graduating this year (the Lord and the registrar willing). Aside from the usual pressing questions of what to do with my life after that May day, I’m concerned about how to spend my summer. I’ve written in the past about how to use the summer months wisely, but the call changes once a diploma is thrown onto the field. (A little oddly used, post-Super Bowl sports talk for you.) I have two choices, but I wonder if both will take me to the same place in the end.

Will each vessel rock the same under my feet?

Will the sea’s spray taste as salty on any other deck?

Is one ship just like another and the sea always the same?

My first option is to ride the Amtrak system across America. I’ll spend a month seeing the country… the landmarks, the hotspots, the inside of train stations. The last month and a half will be spent at home – the last extended stay in my parents’ house before I’m supposed to become an adult. Then, because I’ll hopefully be attending graduate school in New York, I’ll move into the city and try to get my bearings for a week or so before classes begin.

The second choice is to get an internship and work. I’m only considering paid internships (I figure I can be picky, just this once). I’m also only looking at ones that will be worth my time, meaning I’ll either get to actively experience the job or my résumé will benefit. It sounds… crude… to say it, but making contacts and enhancing how I look on paper are two things that become more important the older you get. (I feel like I should be calling people whippersnappers, wearing tweed and passing out Werther’s Originals.) The point is, I don’t want to work for free and I don’t want to waste my time entering data.

I’ll spend money if I ride trains; I’ll spend money if I intern in a city. I’ll save money if I stay at home for a while; I’ll make money if the internship is paid. I’ll gain life experience if I travel the country; I’ll gain job experience if I intern.

Both plans are valuable, but the question remains – is each ship the same? Will the end result be the same no matter what I decide? I think no. We are defined by the choices we make.

I like to think of my personality as a block of wood. Maybe not as hard or as grainy or as… prone to flotation. What I mean to say is, it’s shapeable. I’m shapeable. Whatever I decide to do will have a deep and lasting effect on me. It’s a tough decision, to pick which type of experience I value most.

I figure, until I choose my ship, there’s nothing to do but keep my head above water.


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