If there’s one thing I value most in my life, it’s structure.
If you know me, you know I’m always organized, and it’s been a common topic in my writing. Scheduling, planning, or really any synonym slightly pertaining to these verbs describes what I’m thinking about at almost any given hour of the day.
At Lehigh, structure is valued by many, especially when it comes to professional planning. More often than not, students in the College of Business and Economics and College of Engineering experience a very ordered four years. It’s common to hear of second-semester sophomores already having summer internships lined up for their junior year summers, often with the near-guarantee of a job after graduation.
While I’ve never doubted my choice to study journalism in the College of Arts and Sciences, I couldn’t help but envy my peers last semester as their lives began to structure themselves and I, for once, was without a concrete plan.
Although I am a journalism major, I’d always known that I wanted to pursue a career in communications rather than in a newsroom. However, the possibilities for the field are broad. Even as a 20-year-old, the idea of figuring out what I wanted to do when I grew up scared me.
After applying to several communications-related internships for my sophomore summer, I stumbled upon an email from the journalism department encouraging students to apply to The Fund for American Studies’ DC Internship program.
The Fund for American Studies is an 8-week program that places members at an internship in D.C., holds enrichment gatherings like tours and round-tables with major organizations in the city, and a seminar course pertaining to the members’ program track of their choosing.
In my winter full of applications, I figured, what was one more?
I applied to the Journalism and Communications track and, gratefully, a few weeks later had been accepted.
However, I was hesitant.
What if I wasn’t placed into an internship that fit what I wanted to do? Did I even really know what I wanted to do?
My program mentor and I discussed my options given what I’ve studied up to this point. I knew I loved storytelling as well as strategizing and creating content to share messages to large groups of people. However, I wasn’t interested in selling products, but rather ideas.
Through my interviewing process I ultimately landed an internship at a public affairs firm as a strategic communications intern.
Again, I was thrilled, but also terrified.
I’d never truly had a professional job before. I didn’t know what the structure of my work days would be. I questioned if I really had the ability to work in this field and live by myself in Washington.
After the first week at my internship, I called my parents from my apartment, absolutely in awe with what I’d experienced.
I was able to take the skills I had learned in my classes and truly apply them to real campaigns for clients.
I also learned how to speak up and express what I was interested in working on in order to receive projects in various realms of communication, while continuing to grow my skill set.
Internship work aside, I also learned how to balance a 9-5 schedule, cook for myself and balance a summer budget.
I learned how to discover a somewhat familiar city and turn it into what I now consider home. I could feel myself growing into a more adult version of myself, and for that I am forever grateful.
And to think that it was all something I wasn’t even sure I wanted.
I walked away from my experience this summer with a concrete professional goal for my future.
But more importantly, I learned that in trying something new there is so much possibility to discover goals you didn’t even know you had.
Madeleine Sheifer, ’21, is the Deputy Editorial Pages Editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]