Deciding how to spend your summer vacation months is often a daunting task. For some, the decision is hardly their own, but for the vast majority, the expression “summer plans” can represent a multitude of possibilities – very few actually consist of the care-free motif that the summer months would seem to convey.
Some want money – well everyone wants money, so allow me to rephrase. Some need money, as in money to pay for their tuition (which has now eclipsed the price of a new 2007 M-class Mercedes SUV).
Naturally, everyone has their own individual motivation for making money. When I started working over the summer, my plan was to make enough money to throw myself a second Bar Mitzvah for the purpose of uninviting all of the people I originally invited to my Bar Mitzvah who didn’t invite me to theirs in return. My obvious mistake was sending the invitations through Facebook where I got 153 e-maybes and only 2 e-yeses. Needless to say, my parents were the only ones who showed up. After that blunder, I resorted to my backup plan: to buy a lobster that I could train as a pet. I should have known that this idea wasn’t going to fly with my dad, who misunderstood my intentions of purchasing a live lobster and reminded me that shellfish were not kosher.
On the other hand, it is hardly uncommon for the prospect of short term prosperity to take a backseat to the prospect of greater future prosperity, something epitomized by “the summer internship.”
I had it both ways this summer. I worked as an intern for the Department of Transfusion Medicine at the National Institutes of Health by day, and a waiter at a Mexican restaurant by night. I’m not quite sure what compelled me to work almost as many hours a week as both of my parents put together, but nevertheless I feel it is now my duty to help ease current and future college students through the annual decision of how to spend one’s summer. The way I propose accomplishing this is by as unscientifically as possible, comparing my summer job to my summer internship, using what I believe to be the four most applicable fields of interest.
1) Economic considerations – This was the main selling point in my securing a job as a waiter. Having security from an economic standpoint meant more than simply taking down the Red Stripe poster in my room that read “Hurray Moderation!” It meant that I could stop buying the cheap hamburger meat at the Asian market, which at the time was under investigation for the disappearance of various dogs from its parking lot. More importantly, it meant that I’d have money left over to buy myself something nice at the end of the summer. As for my internship, with the price of parking, coffee, lunch and the occasional afternoon snack, I would end up losing money everyday I went to work.
2) Leniency of Work Environment – As a waiter, there is no such thing. As a summer intern however, you can always find some free time to screw around during work. I’m confident that anyone whose internship required the use of a computer with internet access would agree with me when I say that at some point over the summer, Facebook and MySpace became really cool. Personally, I’d spend all day searching through my friends’ photo albums on Facebook, desperately looking for a picture of myself that they forgot to label.
3) Hazards of the Job – In my internship, I often handled the blood samples of individuals that had been infected with HIV and, or Hepatitis C. Then again, in my Mexican restaurant, I’d jeopardize my health almost daily by eating food off of my customer’s plates.
4) Making Lifelong Connections – At NIH, the people I worked under treated me incredibly and, in addition to serving as a valuable resource for my medical school application, even left open the possibility of my returning sometime in the future.At my restaurant, I earned the respect and admiration of three of my managers by eating two raw jalapeos in under one minute. My managers promised me that whenever I came back to the restaurant as a guest in the future, my meal would be taken care of. Not surprisingly two of those three managers have since been fired.
The implied moral of my unscientific analysis is that when in doubt, get an internship. The paid job will be there forever but these internships are opportunities that are guaranteed to enhance your future. But either way, as long as you’re doing something productive with your summer (i.e. something other than life guarding or landscaping) you’re okay in my book. And even if you sit on your ass all summer and decide that your summer project will be to see every movie in the drama section of the local Blockbuster, you can relish in the fact that someone else will be even more disappointing than you – and you have Sarah Silverman to thank for that.
Schwartz can be reached at