For me, and hopefully for many other McGill students, this academic year is all about honesty. School is difficult; let’s talk about it. I’m saying goodbye to “everything’s fine.” No more plastering a fake smile over my insecurities. I’m done with pretending. This year is about finding strength in vulnerability, which is why I’m taking this space to voice a question that I know a lot of us struggle with: What is an “internship?”
This is my fourth year asking people at OAP how their summers were, and, frankly, I’m sick of it. I’m tired. What is an “internship?” What does that word mean? I’ve watched as my friends are forced to smile politely and nod along when the word is dropped in conversation. I’ve seen those same “friends” come back the following year with tales of their own “internship(s? is there more than one?)” It’s infuriating, but more than anything, it’s just sad. Everyone is too afraid to admit that they don’t know something, and it creates a culture of silence. If I have to be the one to fall on this sword, so be it.
One of my longest-standing hypotheses was that “internship” refers to a kind of water vessel, or perhaps a ticket to board one. Maybe one summer, when it was my ‘tern,’ I would get my own “internship,” or perhaps a ticket for the singular “internship” that we all go on together, or on some sort of timeshare arrangement. “Internship.” In turn, you get a ship. In-tern-ship. Corroborating this theory is that an “internship” is usually something that happens in the summer. Summer can be very hot because of the sun, and, when it is hot outside, it is good to be near or even in water—where boats often are.
As a lacklustre swimmer, I found this watercraft hypothesis disheartening, but the evidence seemed overwhelming. I convinced myself that I needed a ticket to board the S.S. Internship. I was desperate, as I’m sure we’ve all felt at times. Though deep down, we might know that everyone is going through the same thing, it’s isolating to suffer in silence. Getting that boarding pass became my number one priority.
I started skipping class to read nautical fiction, scouring seafaring novels for any breadcrumbs related to my search. When I did go to campus, I wore an old-timey children’s sailor costume. I showed anyone who would give me the time of day photoshopped images of myself piloting pedal boats, ski-doos, and catamarans. I bought a pair of Sperry’s boat shoes. I didn’t want to wait my tern. I wanted in on the ship, and I was sure that if I could only alert the secretive Internship Marine Society to my impressive, fabricated maritime credentials, they would have no choice but to induct me into their ranks. I was misguided in those days, but dammit, I had drive.
Of course, I wouldn’t be writing this if those dreams had panned out. I would be on the prow of the Internship, sea salt spraying in my face as I gazed out toward the boundless blue expanse of the Pacific. But trying to fit in is exhausting. I had compiled an encyclopedic knowledge of 19th century British naval lore, along with dozens of photo albums of poorly photoshopped images of myself on water vehicles, but no one had invited me to any secret societies.
My quest to fit in will sound familiar to many of you. But please, take solace in the knowledge that you’re not alone. No one knows what an “internship” is. It’s a round of balderdash that we all silently accept as fact. But not me. Not anymore. This year, I am hanging up my child-sized sailor costume for good and living my truth.