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Life Lessons Learned During a Summer Internship

Career Advice |

For collegiate Levo ladies, an exciting summer internship is the ultimate goal. During the school year, I spent unhealthy amounts of time applying to them, taking the time to write individual cover letters for over 15 different companies. When I finally landed my internship at USA Today, I was thrilled to pack up my little Toyota and drive 10 hours north to Washington D.C. to begin my adventure.

But what happens once you get there? Levo’s got you covered on the professional front: click through the articles and you’ll find countless guides to impressing your supervisor from the beginning to the end of your internship.


There’s another dimension to this summer experience though that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, and that’s what you learn about yourself and the world outside the office. I am officially a month into my internship and I feel as if I’ve aged 10 years already. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned:

Pay attention to the little things

My first week on the job I was stressed out. The company is huge, the building itself is so expansive they call it a “campus,” and my daily tasks include meetings with representatives from Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Most of the time I feel like a little girl stumbling around in her mother’s high heels during a game of dress-up.

One day during this first week, I realized I had left my water bottle in my car. I headed down to the garage, relieved to steal a moment alone. I sat in the dark interior of my car trying to calm my mind and give myself a pep talk.

It wasn’t until four hours later, when I was standing outside my car after work digging through my purse for my keys, that I realized what I had done. I peered through the dirty window and, sure enough, saw my keys sitting in my passenger seat.

Crisis ensued. Two hours and $200 later, I drove back to my dorm in rush hour traffic, spent.

This could have all been avoided if I had focused a little less on my ego and a little more on whether my keys were inside or outside my car as I locked the door. The big things are important; that’s why they’re big. However, the little things have a tendency to become awfully big in a moment’s notice and those are the ones that can really get you.

Cultivate a support group

I went to school 5,000 miles away from my family and I generally feel comfortable navigating a new situation by myself. What I didn’t anticipate this summer was sweat dripping down my back on move in day as I pushed a bin full of my clothes down a D.C. street in the summer sun. I didn’t anticipate just how alone you could feel in a crowded Target surrounded by girls on the same mission, to make a new dorm livable. Unlike me, they had dads who could carry full-length mirrors and moms who would provide an extra set of arms for lugging bags.

What I didn’t expect was the solitude that comes along with moving to a city without context.

Ever the Army brat though, I knew I would tough it out. Slowly—very slowly—the urban street on which I live became more familiar and the Metro station less sinister. I met fellow interns through the Local Levo’s D.C. chapter. After tentative initial dinner dates, we have become great friends sharing in the very best moments of this experience, from navigating career anxiety to discovering little nooks of the city together. This support isn’t something you stumble upon—you have to seek it out and it takes work. You realize your effort has paid off when you find yourself giggling with a new friend over inside jokes and late night sweets.

The beautiful moments will happen

Tears dried from the key debacle, I spent my first Friday night in D.C. with a friend from University of Georgia. Eager to hear about each other’s internships, we grabbed boxes of takeout fried chicken and walked around the Capitol Hill neighborhood, looking for a spot to sit and dish. It was then that my friend looked over my shoulder and saw the top of the Supreme Court peeking out from above the trees.

“Why don’t we go there?” he said, a mischievous grin spreading across his face. So we walked, even though my feet were sore, and we ate our chicken on the steps of the Supreme Court.

“Can you believe,” he said, “that this is the place where they decided you would be allowed to marry in this country? And later this month, this is where they’ll decide if I’ll be allowed to marry.” His eyes were bright, referring to the Supreme Court case on the Defense of Marriage Act, which was under consideration at the time.

The sun was setting behind the U.S. Capitol dome. I rested my hands, sticky with grease, on the white marble as I leaned back and considered the historical significance of where I sat. While I spend my days working hard at my internship—and I’ve learned a ton—these are the most valuable lessons I will remember from my summer away from home.

Internships like this allow for professional growth opportunities, but the experience as a whole is a chance to grow as a person. If you’re lucky enough to spend a summer away from everything that is familiar to you, keep these lessons in mind and learn as much as you can from your experiences—good and bad, scary and beautiful.

Have a favorite life lesson learned from your first job in college, or your first days on the job? Share with us in the comments!

Ask Levo Mentor Alexandra Weiss, Business Strategy Associate at BlackRock, what she learned about her own life during her summers as as intern for her future full-time employer!

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lifestyle 2 advice internship personal development


This is EXACTLY how I feel! I left CA for an internship in DC and it's so lonely! I'm really glad to know others are in the same boat!


This is a beautiful article - a great combination of storytelling and hard facts. Internships are such a career blessing, but they can be overwhelming sometimes and you have captured that so well!


Such a wonderful article Alex. I experienced similar feelings when I interned on Capitol Hill- I was the only British intern in the office (and didn't meet any other British interns at all whilst there!) It was a such a valuable and worthwhile experience, one which brought me independence, confidence and precious memories. I'm sure that this will be one of the best experiences of your life! :)


Brilliant article, Alex! This completely encapsulates what you might not plan for with a summer internship - being in a whole new setting and learning how to navigate it in just 3 months.
There are so many unexpected moments of my internship, from the struggles to the lessons I am learning about myself. This article captures all of that, and in great style.


What an awesome article! Main lesson: be a sponge and soak in the world around you, as scary and unfamiliar as it may seem!


Awesome article... super relatable! It is so important to view internships as a growth experience both professionally and personally, and use even the smallest tasks to exhibit inner strength.


Alex is such an amazing writer; this article showcased everything about having an internship--the exciting and the scary. She gave life to the feelings that interns feel and it was simply amazing! Showing the emotional side of situations is sometimes even more helpful than giving tips and advice.


I think one lesson that I have learned from my first summer internship is to remember that people are in the same boat as you! Everyone makes mistakes and it is your job as an intern to learn from them so that you can do better next time. I am lucky to be working with a large group of interns that can help each other. If I didn't, I would take your advice and make a support group.


I think Alex captures the intern experience so brilliantly and I'm glad that she took the time to talk about the life lessons one learns from these career builders. It's important to take stock of what new experiences in your career tell you about yourself as well as about your future positions!


Thank you all so much for your comments! It's nice to know that I'm not the only one to have experienced these feelings.


I love everything about this article. It completely captures the essence of a summer internship, from the struggles to the wonderful lessons learned!


This is such a wonderful article! I think you really captured the dizzying and exciting feeling of having an internship, and dipping your toes in the adult world. I love that you focused on the emotional aspects of internships, which is something that people often neglect to talk about.

Alex Laughlin

Alex is a student at the University of Georgia with a background in journalism and an unhealthy addiction to her MacBook Pro. When not studying feminism, she practices yoga, and makes friends with fellow bloggers. Find her on Twitter @alexlaughs