My Only Extracurricular Freshman Year Was Myself

Why forgoing internships and orgs was the best decision I made

I remember when I first visited GW two summers ago that my tour guide said that “everyone here has internships. It is a part of GW - it’s just natural.” And it’s true: every internship is just a short walk or metro ride away. The opportunities are unmatchable.

 

Despite the many critiques that address GW’s “internship culture,” and overcommitment issues, there remains in it an undeniable virtue: you can be certain that GW students are “doers”. We are the ones who act on our ideas and make waves in society long before we earn our degrees.

 

I, too, thrive off of the fast-paced energy that defines being a doer. And yet, the prospect of this challenge is daunting to me. To transition to college life is already difficult; but always being on edge, thinking of the next great way we will make strides in our global society at the same time? It’s nearly impossible. How can I reach into the world without knowing where I am reaching from?

 

I decided that in order to find where I wanted to fit into society, I first had to find myself (as cliche as that sounds.) And so, I went to work. I did not participate in any internships during my freshman year at GW, nor did I join any orgs on campus until the end of Spring semester. Instead, I committed hours to deeply analyzing Aristotle, Nietzsche, and de Beauvoir; to reflecting in journals each morning, developing my writing. I worked to find my voice, to overcome insecurities; I spent time building friendships, and negotiating with myself what I lack in my life, and what I long for more of.

In this work I found my personal brand of development. Perhaps some people already have this distinct self-awareness, and they know exactly what they want from college. Perhaps some people don’t need it, but instead grow closer to themselves by being surrounded by others. But that is just not how I work.

 

And it is frustrating. To notice how everyone around me can constantly see the fruits of their labor, and have tangible results to show for their brand of self-cultivation. To feel like I am wasting my time, and not doing enough. To feel like I can’t measure up to the dedication my classmates have for their passions.

 

But part of this internal growth was realizing that to do things for myself is enough. On faith, I trusted that I was doing something significant and valuable by learning all I could about myself. I risked hiding the budding roses in my mind from the rest of the world while I watered them for a year, and found that it paid off because now I have this enormous garden to share.

 

GW students are doers. At times I felt like I was not one, because I was not working for something bigger. But now I have a support system for my writing and ideas with Her Campus, and I could not be more confident in myself and the personal projects I have set up for the coming months.

As much as we love our fast-paced energy, it can be easy to get lost in it at GW. I challenge you to work to find yourself, and to do for you.