During the school year, I spend extra hours in the library. I stay up late writing lab reports, and I spend all hours of the day studying for the multitude of tests I have every semester. But this summer, I’ve traded that in for kayaking down the Chicago river, shopping the Magnificent Mile, watching Broadway plays on the regular and witnessing the Cubs make history. You could definitely say I’m enjoying this summer. How did I go from a broke and tired college student to seemingly living it up in downtown Chicago? It definitely all points back to the opportunities and support I have found during my college career at TU.
My name is Brittany James, and I’m a senior Mechanical Engineering student at The University of Tulsa. In addition to all of the fun things I’m doing this summer, I’m also working 40 hours a week for the energy department in Burns and McDonnell’s regional office in Chicago, Ill. I am absolutely loving it. I’ve always enjoyed my engineering classes. I consider them a challenge, and one that I willingly accept. I like the engineering community at TU; I find my professors very supportive and friendly, and I have my own group of engineering friends. But this summer, the summer before I graduate, has encouraged me to look at where my engineering future is headed as opposed to the college life to which I I have become accustomed.
Last summer, I looked at my internship as a stepping stone. I saw it as something to do during the summer while also expanding my knowledge of the industry. I liked it. I found it interesting and considered it a summer well spent. But I was also living in my hometown, where I knew I didn’t plan on staying after graduation. I was working in a city because of it’s convenience, not because that’s where I wanted to be. I was more than excited to return to the familiarity I knew at TU and resume my daily life there as I felt my life had been on pause during the summer. This summer, I have a new perspective. My internship is no longer something “to do,” but it’s something I may do for the next several years. I’m no longer just working, but I’m analyzing the work I do, the people I work with and the city I’m living in. I’m trying to judge, as a young 21-year-old, if this is a future I can see myself living for the next several years. It’s daunting to say the least. I’ve decided that I can’t operate on pause mode any longer. The future is quickly approaching, and I’ve decided to live it to the fullest. I’ve no desire to press fast forward, but I do take each day as it comes and ensure it is worthwhile.
During the week, I wake up earlier than I’d like, make the 10-minute trek to my office and pick up my daily Starbucks from one of the 20 shops in my ½ mile radius. My day consists of a variety of tasks, but the best part is that they are REAL tasks. My office has me working on real projects and experiencing work as an intern that people would be doing their first few years out of college. Not only is this helpful in terms of determining where I see myself in the future, but it gives me a sense of satisfaction in the present. At the end of the day, I can go home knowing that I made a contribution. Not only is my work enjoyable in the professional sense, but I also enjoy the personal aspects as well. I’ve been welcomed into a young and vibrant working community where hard work is balanced with daily laughter and high spirits.
To be honest, as different as it may be, it’s a comforting parallel to the community I have found in my experiences at TU. It is that community that has brought out the best in me. It has refined my leadership skills, sharpened my desire for knowledge, and supported me through everything. TU has taught me the value that comes with a good education. More than that, The University of Tulsa has imprinted upon me the importance of community and how to identify an environment that I will prosper in.
My internship this summer is a two-way interview. It gives me the opportunity for my employer to judge my performance and compatibility and the opportunity for me to do the same with them. It’s that second part that I think people often forget; I, us, you, the young college students- we also have a say! After being spoiled by the experiences I have found at TU, I have absolutely no interest in accepting a job where I am not enjoying the life I live, both professionally and personally. Regardless of where I work after graduation, I take comfort in the fact that it will be a conscious and well-informed decision on my part. And hey, let’s face it, riding Segways through the streets of Chicago, running along the waterfront, and exploring world class museums are some pretty nice bonuses along the way to figuring that out.