Interning as a Freshman in College

By Want Esteemed Contributor

As a naïve freshman in college, it’s difficult to persuade swanky, high-performing companies to let 18 year old interns work for them. Our headphones blast too much music, our fingers tap too quickly on iPhones, and our general attitude is one of apathy and “let’s party.” However, despite the stereotype of young and stupid, teen college students can offer more than just ramen noodle cooking tips and midnight tales about bad decisions. Sharp wits and a proclivity towards technology make us prime intern candidates in this evolving business world of diversity and rapid innovations. It’s the freshness of youth combined with fearlessness—we’re up for anything, even in a pantsuit, tie, and straightened hair.

Luckily, I was able to find a company to intern at the summer after my freshmen year. I am an accounting major, although I was woefully unaware of the Big 4 accounting firms until fall semester. Football games, microeconomics, and co-ed fraternities boated through my thoughts, the possibility of interning not appearing until the spring. Nervous padfolio clutched and hair in an unattractive twist, I walked into my University’s Career Showcase—a job fair where students can learn about hiring companies, sweat uncomfortably, and shake 100 dirty hands. Deloitte&Touche, one of the Big 4 firms, was present, their smiling professionals trying to persuade young talent towards their black letters and green dot. Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC)? KPMG? Ernst&Young (EY)? All were schmoozing our rosy lips and scratchy suits, their common aim that of snatching fresh 21 year olds from college. I found it hilarious that these companies were recruiting so heavily—last Friday night, all these college students were drunken carousers downtown with hidden tattoos and flasks littering their dorms. And today? They were model citizens with spotless GPAs and a sudden thirst for the gray corporate world. I floated through the blue-clothed tables, spotting one of my friends and latching onto his tall figure like barnacles on rotting wood. He was talking to a Deloitte recruiter and I discovered Deloitte was starting an intern program specifically for freshmen—an entire six weeks devoted to late teen heathens like myself! Two months later, after casual interviews and a slew of informational emails, I secured the job offer. As an accounting major, this opportunity of diving into the “real world” couldn’t be kicked to the wayside. I was 19 and clueless, one lone accounting class under my belt and a vast sea of doubt ahead of me.

Deloitte flew the intern class, composed of 72 rising sophomores from across the nation, to Boston for training. An intense, three days of compliance classes, laptop distribution, and functional presentations ensued—my feet were bloodied by blisters and my lips ached with socializing, but I had a vague notion my future was going to be clarified or demolished after these six weeks. The Deloitte professionals treated us like the proper adults we weren’t, but it was difficult working 9 to 5 when my body was acclimated to a 10:40 a.m. class, ambling lunches with friends, 3 p.m. naps, and midnight activities. Returning to my local office (Atlanta), I spent two weeks in Market Development, one of Deloitte’s supporting internal functions (others include IT and Recruitment). Skype calls, shadowing, and resume building filled my eight hour days with strained eyes, head nods, and never-ending smiles. I truly understand the “three o’ clock” slump that crawls into your skin when that unattractive time hits. The office scene and the business casual dresses I flounced around in were exciting, but on the other hand, I infinitely prefer college to the real world. Trapped behind desks—no matter how interesting Deloitte work is—sucks youth out of supple bones, and I’m determined to keep this strange flexibility of 19 as long as possible. My resume is sparkling and I better understand audit, tax, advisory, and consulting. I spoke with higher level professionals and learned about their career paths. I tinkered with the copy machine and created lengthy spreadsheets. A ladder of skills built my summer into a tower of productivity and learning; Deloitte was investing in my future, and for that, I will always be grateful. I also had the chance to travel to client sites and shadow auditors in their natural habitat of cramped office spaces and breakrooms. Truthfully, I wasn’t terribly useful or engaged since giving work to a 19 year old that’s taken one accounting class is difficult (might as well call me the Jon Snow of accounting). Boredom creeped up my rolling chair and into my Target sundresses, but I kept myself entertained. As a freshmen intern, you get out exactly what you put in, so I made sure to ask oodles of questions and observe my future career astutely. However, it was mildly thrilling delivering a memo—flashing around a temporary badge and strutting down carpeted aisles like you belong is a warm feeling of menial importance. After my client shadows, I attended Deloitte University, Deloitte’s premier learning/conference center in Westlake Texas. Drenched with delicious, fattening food and partners loafing around the sumptuous hallways was an interesting, eye-opening experience. Comprehending just how much money firms can accumulate was evident in the five-star rooms, the gadgets the interns received as gifts, and the profusion of gold leaking from every surface. It was a professional Disneyworld, a seductive sweet shop of business. After three days of workshops and never-ending food, my waist was stretched and my mind confused. This showy display of wealth—the raw power of accounting—was certainly attractive, but on the flipside, interning this early felt somewhat rushed. Donning a suit when I can barely cook for myself felt like forced growing up, the sprouting of a beard when baby hairs were rustling just a few weeks ago. The weight of my future is crushing, especially since questions of jobs, security, and raising a family are already hounding my 4’11 frame.

This internship experience was undoubtedly instructive—I can network until my throat is raw and tout punctuality from 9 to 5. I can interact with tax partners and mold spreadsheets under supple fingers. Working with my fellow Pioneer Interns was also a ball, our personalities and work styles meshing like needle and thread. Thank-you Deloitte for opening your twenty-pound doors onto a shuttered workplace. But sometimes it’s better to postpone the drudgery of work, at least while teenage digits linger.

Photo Credit: Open Grid Scheduler

About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (www.wantnewsforteens.com).

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