Don't get an internship: work at a summer camp

By The Beacon | February 6, 2014 3:06am

Kate Stringer |

You want a kick-ass internship this summer. Your parents and professors want you to get a kick-ass internship this summer.

But you need to work at summer camp.

I worked at Seattle’s Catholic Youth Organization camp for two of my college summers. I wish it had been all of them. Because during those two summers, I learned more about myself, life and faith than any internship, class or homily has ever taught me.

But I need to learn how to be a leader, you’re probably protesting.

Be the leader of a cabin of kids for a week. Lead their energetic, complaining bodies up the mountain to watch the sun set and lead them back down.

Pack them in canoes and make them follow you across a lake to sleep in the woods for a night. Teach them how to construct water-proof shelters, build a campfire, cook their dinners perfectly, eat their burnt dinners without complaining, make a forest toilet, properly pee in the forest toilet and fall asleep 50 miles from their parents, teddy bear and warm bed.

But I need to develop skills for the workplace.

Hang out with middle school boys who have just encountered the terror that is puberty.

Take them to the archery range and bring them back with the same number of fingers and eyes that they left with. Make them fall asleep, especially the ones that are too cool to be homesick. Lead them adventuring through bogs, brambles and blackberry bushes. Do it after you’ve had five hours of sleep for five nights in a row. Do it when you’re hungry and haven’t showered in four days. Do it with a prayer that sounds like this: God, I can’t do this. Help.

Learn patience, listening, stamina. Stamina. Stamina.

But I need to address my personalized career goals first.

Do you think your employer wants to hear about you and your plans, your goals, your ambitions? When you sit down for that interview, tell your future employer what you know about being a team player: empathy and selflessness.

Tell them about when you made that stupid mistake of playing “Hear You Me” by Jimmy Eat World to put your cabin of high school girls to sleep, and how instead of drifting into a peaceful slumber, they all began bawling at the memory of every dead relative and pet turtle they owned.

Tell them how tired you were, but how you sat with them until 2 a.m., drying tears, vowing to read them only Winnie the Pooh for the rest of their lives.

I don’t think having fun is in the how-to manual for getting a job.

Then don’t tell anyone you had fun. But you will. You will be the happiest you’ve been in your life. You will have memories you can’t shake out of your head, of dancing around the campfire on the shores of Lake Hannan, sparks exploding into orange and yellow fireworks, the setting sun and douglas firs a pink, blue and green blur as you jump up and down, strumming and screaming your favorite camp song:

And it feel so good to be alive.

Kate Stringer is a senior English major. She can be reached at