Internships bridges lives on, off campus


Off-campus experiences seem to be a touchstone of DePauw education. Whether it's an internship back home for Winter Term or a year-long excursion abroad, most students will spend some part of their academic years learning off campus and outside the conceived DePauw bubble.

So approaching the second semester of my junior year, I began thinking about where I would take my required semester-long Media Fellows internship.

I planned on interning with a future congressman. But come November, his chances of winning the election seemed as good as me understanding the plot of "Lost."

I looked for other political internships in D.C., but most of their job descriptions featured photocopying and coffee runs as primary responsibilities. I even thought about interning with a Republican. I was desperate.

Looking for a back-up to my ever-dwindling list of options, I applied for the DePauw Environmental Policy Project — an environmental policy research and education group.

At first, I didn't even consider it a serious alternative. I'd still be living on campus and eating dinners in my fraternity house. I wouldn't have to make new friends or cook on my own.

But when my prospects in D.C. began to disappear, giving up the opportunity to test my Easy Mac microwaving skills seemed like an acceptable loss. 

I took the semi-off campus position with DEPP. A few weeks later, the congressional candidate I had hoped to intern with lost bad in one of the first races called on election night.  

It would have been amazing to live in Washington D.C. for a semester. But if I had chosen coffee runs over Greencastle, I never would have learned as much as I have.  

In D.C., I wouldn't be able to talk up legislators for hours or testify before congressional committees. I wouldn't be able to work directly with policy makers, lobbyists and activists alongside my fellow DEPP members. 

If I hadn't chosen to stay in Greencastle — within the bubble — I would have missed out on the best hands-on political education I've ever received. 

Admittedly, there was a bit of luck involved. I couldn't have picked a better year to focus on Indiana politics. This session has featured a slew of controversial legislation, massive union rallies, a governor with presidential prospects, numerous incidents of corruption and the longest walkout by members of a state legislature in U.S. history. 

In short, the 2011 Indiana General Assembly has been kind of a big deal. 

Before this semester, I thought I'd have to travel to a big city and temporarily sever all ties with the university to get a valuable internship experience. I was wrong.

The DePauw bubble is not as impermeable as it may seem.  

My peers abroad and in cities across the United States are undoubtedly having those meaningful internships, and they are most likely far different from mine. But that doesn't mean living in Greencastle makes one's internship or education less significant.

In my experience, the DePauw bubble has some serious osmosis action going on.

I have time after college to live on my own and work a traditional 9 to 5. For now, I'm just excited I won't have to miss Little 5.

— Cecil is a junior from Elmhurst, Ill., majoring in political science. He was a staff member of The DePauw last semester.