How Interns Become Real People

Eliana Intern
Intern Eliana in action.

I just ordered 500 business cards with my name in bold and a quote from my blog, Collegadox, on the back. It reads: "We can't live by titles when stories are in people."

They've already shipped, so don't go on telling me you don't like it. Rest assured I'll probably feel that way in a matter of days. It's the perks of having a brain still developing.

But it's no coincidence that I return to this idea of fact vs. fiction as I wonder what compelled me, not just to write that line, but to champion it as my slogan -- why titles and job descriptions fascinate me, and the discrepancy between them.

A theory: getting ahead stems from the "resume building mentality," in which we accept the title without meticulously reading the fine print.

Behold, my apartment, the laboratory:

One roommate will become a contributor in a scientific study after this summer. What does that really mean? Countless hours wearing down her cornea, practically becoming one with the computer screen, pulling together figures while whittling the time at a local Starbucks. A $4 frap is the price of being a glorified footnote.

Another roommate is an inclusion camp counselor, responsible for integrating a child with disabilities with her bunkmates, and making sure the kid has a good time. What it also means is relentlessly trying to make every activity extraordinary with phrases like, "swimming is great!" and "isn't coloring the best?" It also means singing and dancing in the bunk, playing along with little children, to show your camper how to be a team player.

Ask my third roommate what she does, and she gives it to you straight: "I wipe butts." (It's ridiculously tempting to end here without giving any explanation.) She is a nursing home caregiver and corrals residents to their meds, to the washroom and to the next activity. She is a shepherdess to a flock that day to day, might not remember her name.

This summer I'm interning for a news company, covering food policy, agriculture and the environment. What that really means is outside of my daily swim, boxing sess, or roller-blade, I can spend all week in my pajamas, walking the 8-yard distance between the couch to the kitchen and back to the couch. My job is finding the most important story that other reports and communications departments write that day -- be it illegal fisheries, salmonella outbreaks, mad cow disease tainted beef, cage-free eggs, and corn prospects in Malawi, Africa -- and summarize it into commuter-friendly blurbs. I am glorified CliffsNotes.

I guess what I'm saying is that with each small-fry title, we accept more than what we bargain for, but that we learn more than what we bargained for because of it.

We learn working habits, like whether we enjoy working in pajamas at home or reporting in a buzzing newsroom.

We learn how to manage our sleep schedule, making salads the night before so that we don't accidentally pack a nut-product to camp in our bleary-eyed morning state.

We learn to take the butt-wipes with the brow-swipes and each day is victory just because we didn't collapse.

We learn to live by the stories instead of titles, so that when we get to the job of our dreams, we actually know what we're doing.


"Ask my third roommate what she does, and she gives it to you straight: "I wipe butts."  "

Eliana Block photo 375
Two truths and a lie: Eliana Block is a Zionist. She learned sex-ed really for the first time in college. She aspires to write her first novel while skateboarding around the world and sampling different peanut butter recipes. Lie: roller-blading*... Read More

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