Balancing an internship and school

NEIL RILEY ‘17

Editor-in-Chief

Twice a week since the beginning of last semester, I have woken up before the sun, thrown on a tie and caught an early morning bus to Columbus.  The 39 takes me all the way to the intersection of Broad Street and High Street, where I hop off and make my way to the Riffe Tower across from the Statehouse.

Just as my roommates are groggily pulling t-shirts over their heads as they get ready for class, I will sit down at my desk 28 stories in the sky, turn on my computer and prepare for the day ahead.

I am an intern at the Ohio Development Services Agency.  Every time I say that out loud I feel like a blowhard.  Without going into too much detail, my job is to assist the Strategic Research Division with its goal of providing Ohioans with data and analysis on economic, industrial and demographic trends within the state.

I won’t try to sell you the “job interview package” where I spend paragraphs talking about my “life changing” experience as an intern, but I will say that my time with the ODSA has given me a different perspective on my future and a few important lessons.

Obviously, the environment we live in on the hill is radically different than any workplace environment, especially a government office. I remember even when I would come back home from Denison after just a month, I would need to check my behavior and be careful about the way that I talked to my parents. Spending every minute of every day with your friends forces you into the habit of informality. Interning has required that I adopt workplace formality for at least 16 hours every week.

Making this transition has shown me the difference between the academic world and the working world that the former exists to prepare you for, and also has afforded me the opportunity to leave the hill much more often than I might have if I wasn’t working.

As my previous four semesters had progressed, I would invariably fall into a monotonous routine.  I would stumble to class, go back to my room, do my homework and hang out with my friends.  That ritual would take me all the way to the following break with little deviation. Leaving Denison behind, if only for a few hours, effectively divides up this monotony and has made me appreciate going to class and interacting with the people I meet here so much more.

Most of my time at work is spent researching, updating existing databases and writing reports based on published economic data. While this time has helped me hone these skills, it has not allowed me a gigantic amount of room for creativity.

Going to a liberal arts school pushes you to think outside the box and to make connections that others might not using knowledge of a wide range of subjects. The balance of the two experiences has been very special and has helped me mature as a person. Even though I’ve sacrificed so many excellent days on the hill with my peers, I would not trade those early mornings and uncomfortable bus rides.  It has given me a perspective that few Denison students can claim.