“How was your summer?”
The question we all face when we return to campus in late August. Sometimes we’re the first to ask, other times we are asked in an effort to feed the curiosity of our peers.
For many, it might translate to, “What did you do this summer?” More often than not, our summers revolve around work, and we expect that out of each other.
These questions carry our underlying interest in how our friends are placing among the workforce. Are they working as a camp counselor or at a pizza restaurant? Do they have an internship? Is it better than mine?
In college it should be completely normal to work at any end of the spectrum, whether that be at a sandwich shop, Wall Street or abroad.
But before school even starts, an internal contemplation begins. We reflect on the last summer and anticipate what will unfold during the next. How can we structure our academics this year to best benefit our next summer? Some companies have even started their hiring processes.
Part of that can be traced to the fact that Lehigh is an extremely career-oriented school, and sometimes it feels as though there is a constant anticipation for our professional lives to begin.
We spend so much time learning how to present ourselves as professionals through mock interviews, resume building and other workshops that we forget to figure out who we are and what we are passionate about.
Perhaps we’re interested in clubs we never thought we had time for, or sports teams or other non-academic commitments. Such experiences can provide us with the opportunity to truly take advantage of every aspect college has to offer, besides just professional assistance. A club sport could teach us athletic discipline, and a business club could provide us with insight and knowledge into how our economy works.
One common critique of high school is that its sole purpose is to get you into college. College is supposed to be more dynamic. It should be a place where we can explore new skills, passions or interests we might not have stumbled upon otherwise.
But in reality, we are already chasing after the next step in our lives, just as we were in high school.
In some instances we pick a specific class over another for the sake of beefing up our GPAs or appealing to potential employers. We might skip out on a concert or club meeting to have our resumes critiqued.
In doing so, we miss out on the opportunity to enroll in classes or attend events that truly spark our interests.
There is a competitive atmosphere at Lehigh when it comes to our summer employment. We all want to do productive things to gain the edge in our respective industries, but when it’s branded that the only way to be productive in the summer is to be employed, students only strive for that.
We expect each other to be working in some form or another. Learning a new skill, engaging in a particular hobby or spending an entire summer traveling are all alternatives to the life of an intern.
Granted, explaining these paths may invoke a more surprised reaction from peers compared to stating your job function at a company. But that doesn’t mean they are not valuable uses of time.
This mindset tags alongside us until our time here concludes,when we’re asked to demonstrate a commitment to professionalism again. We expect each other to be employed, or close to it, by the time graduation rolls around and anything to the contrary would be outside of the norm.
That’s when the familiar question returns, just phrased in a different way.
“What are you doing after you graduate?”