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The Crucial Role of My Summer Internship

The previous year has been quite challenging, not due to work or my culinary adventures — given that allowing me near a stove poses a fire hazard — but mainly because of the rigorous internship application process. Despite my spreadsheet indicating that I applied to a mere 113 positions, there was a point where I lost count due to the sheer volume.

As the final offers started trickling in, a sense of relief washed over me. I am truly thankful that my dedication has opened doors to incredible opportunities that align perfectly with my career aspirations. However, I can’t help but indulge in a moment of selfishness and wonder, couldn’t these offers have arrived a couple of weeks earlier to spare me from a quarter-life crisis?

The countless tearful conversations with my parents, struggling to articulate my thoughts amid emotional outbursts, where I lamented about feeling rejected by this country and contemplating a permanent return to India due to the apparent lack of job prospects, prompted me to reassess my life decisions.

My fixation on securing a summer internship in the United States was intense. It was on par with my wishlist of landing a U.S. internship, witnessing a reunion between Shawn and Camila, and witnessing my Python code miraculously functioning flawlessly.

However, during spring break, a visit to London to reconnect with friends and my sister enveloped me in an overwhelming sense of love. It was then that I realized that going back home wasn’t such a dreadful prospect after all. Being surrounded by individuals who truly see, value, and cherish me made me reconsider my priorities.

The pressure to justify the substantial financial investment my family has made in my education by striving to establish a successful life in the U.S. through securing a summer internship, potentially leading to a permanent position, weighed heavily on me. This pursuit, in essence, represents my desire to make the most of the resources poured into my education at USC.

Many international students, including myself, harbor aspirations tied to the American dream, believing in the promise of success through hard work, which includes securing coveted summer internships. However, the burden of making pivotal decisions and striving for a predetermined lifestyle at the age of 19 can be overwhelming.

My time in London served as a gentle reminder of the importance of pausing, reflecting on my present desires, and questioning whether I truly understand my future aspirations. By overlooking the positives of returning home, I wasn’t giving that option a fair chance. Various factors, especially for international students lacking the luxury of hopping on a flight home at a moment’s notice, come into play.

For instance, to intern in the U.S., international students at USC must enroll in a one-unit course costing $2,244 — essentially paying the university for the opportunity to work and earn. Moreover, if I choose to stay in the U.S. long-term, this could potentially be my last extended visit home for three months.

I had forgotten the comfort and warmth of home until I reunited with individuals from my homeland, evoking nostalgia for the tranquility and joy it brings. Is remaining in the U.S. truly my heart’s desire?

As I reflect on these thoughts while penning this piece, I aim not to sway anyone toward a particular answer but rather encourage individuals to contemplate this question without being pushed to the brink as I was. It’s crucial to recognize that, regardless of the decision, things will eventually fall into place.

It can be challenging to objectively weigh all factors when swayed by visions of a brighter future or the longing for the familiarity of home, yet it remains essential. Treat this decision as you would any summer internship opportunity, devoid of the weight of determining your entire future.

So, whether it entails a European escapade, a summer spent binge-watching movies with family, or a 9-to-5 job applying classroom knowledge — prioritize your needs. Rest assured, a gap on your resume due to self-care or an extended summer for enhanced field exposure won’t make or break your career.