The expectation at American University is that we as students must study, work, intern, go out and get some sleep all at once. But with a hectic schedule at times it can be hard to create that work life balance. As a senior with some perspective, and as a student that at one point in time didn’t have it all together, I am here to tell you how to spend 24 hours a day, 8 for work, 8 for sleep and 8 for play.
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One of my goals for making my first impression as an intern was simple…don’t mess up. Little mistakes that we learn from are always fine, but I really didn’t want to step on any toes or offend anyone. So, for the first couple of days, I kept my eyes open and my mouth shut.The State Department is one of the largest bureaucracies in the world. There are levels and sub levels, Training Technicians and Training Assistants, and to every Director, there is a Deputy Director. I knew that the best way to avoid awkward incidents would be to quickly figure out where I was in the hierarchy. Once that was clear, I had a much better idea of how I should act and react around the different people in my office. After that, office etiquette came naturally. I know which jokes to laugh at, when my personal stories are appropriate, and who to go to with which questions.I’ve been getting along so well with everyone in my office that I forgot about the new intern that was starting half way through the term. At first, my new coworker came crashing into the little world I had grown to love. Everyone was telling her how excited they were that she was there and how they were looking forward to getting to know her and how she was going to do great. I felt forgotten, left out, and a bit jealous. Have you heard of Middle Child Syndrome? I began to develop what I have started calling Middle Intern Syndrome.However, a little self reflection gave me a reality check. The new intern was supposed to start when I started, but was held up with travel complications. Now she’s here and anxious to get caught up. And best of all, I’m not doing everything by myself anymore! In the last few days I have realized that I now have a teammate. While stuffing folders for an hour this week, we found many things we have in common (which was not difficult at all since we are both living our dream internship). We’re becoming an efficient and friendly pair that the office adores. They are even throwing an Intern Lunch in our honor to thank us for all of our work!
Moral of the story: Keep an open mind and never turn down a potential friend.
I have a fair amount on my plate this semester:
- Taking 5 classes (16 credits)
- Interning at Amnesty International USA (13 hours week)
- Working at the Career Center as the Lead Peer Adviser (11-15 hours a week)
- Extracurricular activities like HerCampus AU and Relay for Life
It’s a pretty hectic workload. I constantly have my planner with me and my phone is pretty much always buzzing with new emails or other work- or class-related updates. More often than not I need to prepare in advance if I have a major assignment due or an event to facilitate around the same time as a friend’s birthday or an evening out with friends.
Still, this type of workload isn’t impossible to maintain on top of getting sleep and having a social life. If you’re busy like me, the keys to success are balance, time management, and knowing when to say “no.” I have my working days scheduled so that I can focus on whatever task I’m doing, or whatever role I’m playing, during the working week. On the flip side, weekends are all mine; I won’t do anything aside from social activities or homework on a weekend. I plan in advance to make sure I’ll start studying ahead of time for that big exam and won’t have to pull an all-nighter to finish that research paper. I’m not afraid to politely, but firmly, say no if I know that it is not at all realistic for my mental health or physical well-being to take on more responsibility, even if it is only for one event or project.
When balancing so many commitments, it’s key to make sure that there’s also time in my schedule so that I can take care of me. (Never underestimate the energizing effect of a solid night’s sleep!) What also helps is that these are all things I love to do. (Well, aside from taking General Education requirement classes.) I’m fortunate to be doing things that I love, so it isn’t as hard as one would think to balance all these commitments. Although of course there are days when I’d love to hit the snooze button when my alarm goes off in the early hours of the morning!
In the other internships I’ve had, the end of an internship was a big deal. There was usually lunch, a thank you email, I even had once coworker cry once. Since many of us interns ended on Friday the 5th, and only a few interns were going out to lunch with their respective supervisors, the rest of us decidedly to plan ourselves a little lunch in our own honor. It was not a big deal but it was nice to be together on our last lunch. In keeping with tradition, we went to Sweet Greens and then sat outside and talked for a while about what we had learned here, as well as our personal lives. While there was no company lunch, no thank you card, no tears, I did get two hugs and a chance to spend lunch with some of my new friends. So here goes, the final “Things I have learned” list: