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From Intern To Insight: A Journey Of Growth & Learning

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Conn chapter.

This summer, I took part in my very first tech internship; and let me just say, it was truly beyond anything I ever expected. From the people I met to the project I was lucky enough to be able to work on, I would not trade my experience for the world, even through all the ups and downs. This summer was truly a summer of learning. I felt like the biggest lesson it taught me is that I am very passionate about my major and having a career in tech, as long as it’s within a position that I genuinely love, with a company that treats me with respect and kindness like the one I worked with this summer did. 

The Commute

One of the largest parts of my summer was the commute. I got an internship with a digital consulting firm known as Publicis Sapient. I knew a friend who got a full-time offer there and I decided to apply after reading about the company’s emphasis on culture and company values. The only issue was that the company base that I applied for was in New York City. Instead of living in the city and paying the exorbitant prices that are New York apartments, I made the decision to commute from home five days a week for 10 weeks, which meant a total commute of five hours every day.  

When I tell you that commuting was quite the treat, I definitely mean it. While I definitely did not enjoy the 5 a.m. wake-up calls, I found that surprisingly, I enjoyed the train ride to and from Grand Central. Since the train had no Wi-Fi, I was able to enjoy other activities like reading and listening to podcasts during that time, which are activities I love but never have enough time to do in the midst of the constant chaos that takes place in a college student’s life. Looking back on my summer, I am glad I was commuting rather than living in NYC. I felt like I became so much more aware of my surroundings and became more confident in myself and my abilities to navigate and survive in new places alone. I feel like this will only help prepare me for after college when I am on my own. I guess there’s no such thing as too early to learn these things, right?

The Work

I had major imposter syndrome going into this internship. Not only was this my first ever software engineering internship, but all my fellow interns seemed to come from very well-known, top-tier, ivy-league type schools. While UConn is a good school, I felt like I would not compare to those of my peers. I remember distinctly that when we first got our groups for the project, I thought I would be the kind of person to do very little to contribute to the team with the fear that I would make a mistake or do something wrong, and others would judge me for it. There are so many times when I am in a group setting that I am new to (usually socially), and I just do not speak for fear that I may say the wrong thing or do something incorrectly. That was the same feeling I had early on in the summer, but honestly, I surprised myself. I was surprisingly confident in my abilities and heavily contributed to both the project and the planning process. I felt like the part that really made me comfortable and more confident to keep sharing my ideas was that my group made me feel appreciated and made me feel like my ideas mattered. This work environment felt so comfortable and honestly made me want to come to work every day, which was not only surprising but also made this experience one I truly will never forget. 

The Socials

Every Friday, the company would hold socials for all the interns. Sometimes we just had donuts or popcorn delivered and we would, as a group, do some fun activities. In other cases, we went out in the city and were able to do a city-wide scavenger hunt and go bowling. This gave all the interns a perfect balance between work and getting to know one another. I felt like these social events, while it was a chance for us to let loose and spend time with each other, also improved the workplace culture that the company promotes and puts on display. The more we got to know each other outside of the workplace, the easier it was to interact with each other in the workplace, which made projects and other intern activities so much more fun and exciting and made my experience all the better. 

Final Reflections: 

Looking back on this experience, it is truly hard to put into words what this experience was like for me. The first thing I learned was that computer science is a subject that I am actually really passionate about. In the computer science classes I have had throughout college, it is sometimes really hard to picture myself doing this every single day for the rest of my life. With the constant homework assignments, quizzes, and exams, it was hard for me to see what goal I was really working towards. I didn’t really know what real-life applications of what I was learning looked like, because the assignments given in classes are usually not very realistic to real-life work. But during this internship, I was genuinely excited to come in every day. I had this weird feeling when I got home where I just wanted to go back to work so I could figure out a certain problem that I was having with my code, or I just wanted to be back collaborating with my group members. Each day made me excited, which definitely exceeded what I initially expected. 

Moreover, I learned to never take my experiences for granted. The one part of the commute that made it bearable was that I was commuting with a friend for three out of five days. Something I noticed is that my friend never enjoyed going to work. In fact, he would dread each day he would have to go to the city. His internship did not align with what he really wanted to do and what he saw himself doing in the future. I feel like that alone can make or break the internship experience. It made me realize that it’s important to really know what I want to do and not settle for anything less when I look for full-time positions. If I am not enjoying the work I am doing, I won’t be excited to come in and won’t give as much effort into what I am doing, as I know I am capable of giving. 

“Confidence is not ‘they will like me.’ Confidence is ‘I’ll be fine if they don’t.’ “

Lastly, I learned to be confident in myself and not be afraid to show my own personality to others. I find that in some social scenarios, I shy away and am afraid of being who I am, in fear of what other people might think of me and might say. However, this internship has taught me to be more confident in who I am and the ideas that I have. I should be unafraid to speak my thoughts and pitch my ideas, even if they can get turned down. The key, I learned, is to just do the best that you can, and every mistake you make is a learning opportunity. I made many mistakes throughout the internship, but I felt like my group members were understanding and willing to help me when I had these issues. These experiences combined made me feel comfortable enough to be myself and to share my ideas because I knew they would be taken in with kindness and understanding. 

After reflecting on my experience, my advice would be to seize all opportunities that come your way, because you never know if one of these opportunities might just change your life, like my internship did for me.

Rashmi Pai

U Conn '24

Rashmi is a senior at the University of Connecticut studying computer science and engineering, with a concentration in cyber-security and a minor in mathematics. She is currently a contributing member of Her Campus UConn and has been since the beginning of her junior year. Aside from writing for Her Campus, Rashmi is also a math tutor at the Q Center, an undergraduate teaching assistant for introductory Computer Science classes, and an undergraduate research assistant for the UConn Voter Center. She aspires to be a software engineer after she graduates from college. In her free time, Rashmi loves to play tennis and swim (and is always looking for a buddy to do both of these things with). When she gets a moment of free time (which is not often), you will most likely see her reading books by mirror lake, and watching re-runs of a range of tv shows, including Parks and Rec, Gilmore Girls, and Schitts Creek.