Experience Is Its Own Reward?



Third year, second semester, feels remarkably similar to junior year in high school. Of course, you say, they're essentially the same thing: one year before your world changes drastically and permanently. One year and one semester left to go before I have to a) join the real "working" world or b) postpone reality further and attend graduate school. What to do?

It's all the same decisions. Where do I want to go to school? What classes/internships should I do to improve my chances of getting into that school? For that matter, what exactly do I want to do with my life?

Last week, The Spectrum ran an editorial on the topic of AP courses in high school. It started me thinking back to a choice I made in the spring of my junior year to enroll in what was essentially a work-experience, AP-like course called "News Visions: Explorations in Health Careers."

New Visions offered students the opportunity to spend four hours each school day immersed in the working environment of our local hospital. It encompassed five or six different school districts, but only 13 students were accepted into the program from all six.

It was - and is - an extremely competitive program, with over 50 applicants the year I applied. I wasn't completely certain I wanted to enter the medical world, but it seemed like a good idea to apply first and worry about the decision later.

"I've got some good news for you! You got in to New Visions." Pause. "You don't look very happy." My counselor was a smart woman. I had to make a choice.

I accepted. Fast forward six months to September and the start of a new academic year.

The group of students enrolled in the class wasn't quite what I expected. A lot of the students in the class were rather snobby; it was very easy to pick out who wanted to go into the medical field for the money, and who truly wanted to help others. For those people, New Visions was a line on a r?(c)sum?(c) or an addition to a college application, and little more.

It's been the same way this year. All my friends, either at UB or back home, have spent the last semester looking for an internship or some sort of program for this summer. I'm no different; I have to admit I panicked at the thought of spending yet another summer back home working at my home school job. (Hi, how long will those flowers be out of water?)

The decision to participate in that "special something" my senior year of high school was made for the wrong reasons; I was pleased that I'd been picked out of so many, and I thought I'd be wasting my talents by doing what everyone else was doing. As a result, I essentially left high school a year early. The amount of responsibility was far greater and far more dependent on my own motivation, we spent all but one hour away from the high school - separation from high school friends began a year early for me than it did for my friends back at high school.

I don't regret my decision completely. It did help me to decide I did not want to enter the medical field, after all. Still, it's an entire year that I spent on something that now has no bearing whatsoever on my life. And then, if I hadn't taken New Visions, I would have taken AP English and perhaps figured out two years earlier that what I really wanted to do with my life involved writing, not medicine.

Am I doing the same thing with an internship? The summer after one's junior year is the "prime time" for internships, or so I hear, and the field I chose isn't the one I originally planned one entirely. I'm looking forward to it, but there's still a small voice in the back of my mind that wonders if I know what I'm doing.

I think I do. I'd rather find out now that I have no future as a journalist than discover it after I graduate. Life, after all, is the best experience of all, so no experience is truly useless. At least, that's what I tell myself.