68: Working and Learning in the City that Never Sleeps

68: Working and Learning in the City that Never Sleeps

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

Working and Learning in the City that Never Sleeps

I’ve always worked very, very hard, and the harder I worked, the luckier I got.

~Alan Bond

Going to college in New York definitely has its perks — as long as I’ve been a student at NYU, I can never recall being hard pressed to find a mouth-watering restaurant, any kind of shopping I could ever fathom, or something to do on a weeknight. It’s an exciting life in the city — always moving, always on your toes, always something to do. NYU prides itself in providing a particular type of education — one that goes beyond the classroom and takes advantage of its vast resources in what is arguably the greatest city in the world. As the admissions brochures describe, New York is as much our classroom as it is our playground, and the meaning of this became clear to me in my sophomore year.

Although spending one’s college years in New York is an exciting, enriching experience, it certainly does not come without its pressures. New Yorkers are go-getters by nature, always looking to “one-up” the competition and prove their worth. NYU students are no different. From the time I enrolled in my freshman year, I noticed that my fellow students were driven to get ahead. Many had jobs and internships by their first semester, some even holding two at a time. And by my second semester, it seemed as though I was the only one without any kind of professional, pertinent New York experience related to both my major and expected career goals. As someone who had always been an overachiever throughout my schooling experience, this was troubling for me. Was I suddenly just that unmotivated? Was I destined to become a professional failure? I knew that there was only one way to prove myself: it was time for my first New York internship.

I was lucky enough, at the beginning of my sophomore year, to find a position that interested me — an internship at a small PR firm specializing in classical music and the arts. As a communications major who was looking to break into the classical music industry, the job seemed like a perfect match. I sent in my resume, nailed the interview, was offered the job, and accepted. After providing them with my class schedule, the company quickly e-mailed me back with the hours they expected me to work:

“Dear Oren: We’re very excited for you to join us. As per your availability, we’ll see you on Mondays from 10-6, Wednesdays from 1-6, and Fridays from 10-1. Looking forward to seeing you on Monday.”

It was not what I had bargained for. They had literally scheduled me to work every hour that I was not in class — and I had a full class schedule lined up for the semester! I felt trapped into one of two options: I could either trail further behind my classmates, without any kind of practical job experience, or I could have the hardest semester of my life. Of course, I could have taken a step back, spoken with my new employer, and explained that a 16-hour workweek was simply not an option for me at the moment. Instead, I chose option two — the hardest semester of my life.

If I thought it was going to be a difficult semester, I clearly had no concept of exactly what I was getting myself into. My semester was a whirlwind — one of running to the subway immediately after class in order to get to my internship and one of working tirelessly on projects at the office only to return home to do the whole day’s homework at night. By the end of the semester, I was exhausted. Not only had I worked myself to death, but my long hours of juggling office work with schoolwork made it impossible to go to concerts, hang out with my friends in the city, and do so many other New York activities that I had enjoyed my freshman year. In short, I bit off more than I could chew, all in the name of growing up — too fast, in hindsight.

Don’t get me wrong — my internship was a wonderful experience. I learned so much about Public Relations, the classical music industry, and what it takes to work in a real, thriving New York office. I made numerous professional contacts, developed important business skills, and even made a few friends at the office. The company appreciated my dedication and the long, hard hours that I poured into my numerous work projects. In fact, I was consistently praised by my boss as one of the best interns she had ever employed.

Needless to say, though, I took a semester off of interning after my first experience, but was pleasantly surprised to receive a phone call in mid-February. It was from one of the clients of the PR firm I had worked for — a well-known New York orchestra.

”Hi, Oren. The folks over at your last internship had forwarded me your resume after you left, along with high recommendations. We’re looking for a summer intern in our Marketing department and are wondering if you might be interested.”

That’s how I was offered my second New York internship. And after much thought and plenty of discussion with the company, regarding scheduling (among other things), I accepted. Now, as a second semester junior, I haven’t interned for a full year and don’t plan to for another semester. After all, I already have two internships under my belt and can only hope that I am well on my way to “one-upping” the competition and proving my worth in the city that never sleeps.

~Oren Margolis

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