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Thursday, May 6, 2021

Practicing mindfulness when balancing an internship, job

It can be overwhelming to have time and energy for both

Seven people stand below a sign that says “internship” and various infographics while talking amongst each other.
Seven people stand below a sign that says “Internship” and various infographics while talking amongst each other. Students seeking internships have reported serious difficulties in finding opportunities during the pandemic. // Illustration by Rawpixel.com

By Belle Wright 

Sienna Pioli, a fourth-year Special Education major at Western Washington University, is balancing a job at a downtown cafe, “Leaf and Ladle.”She is also partaking in a teaching internship. As students merge their career and education into an internship, they are discovering what Pioli knows: It’s not easy. 

“My time is a lot more limited,” Pioli said. “I recently reached out for a therapist because going from being on the computer through Zoom everyday, to directing people in person and working as a team, has been a challenge for me socially.”

This is teaching her a lot about how to stress correctly, and where to focus her energy. 

“What you did in school and what you learned matters, obviously, but the grades you got don’t matter at all,” Pioli said. “All the time that I spent stressing over my grades and not thinking about how I would use the material I was learning was unnecessary.” 

Heather Lindsay, the chief operations officer for the CampFire Samish outdoor learning camp deals with student interns as part of the camp’s mission to provide “constructive environments for young people to understand their worth, uniqueness, and passions,” according to their website.

Lindsay said she has helped many students find their way through the internships their organization offers.

“We understand about juggling work. Some people work to do school and are trying to get internships for credit or experience,” Lindsay said. “We’re very flexible with time and schedules, and understand and make accommodations for that. Even during midterms or finals.”

Lindsay also warned students not to overwork themselves. 

“Truthfully, when I’ve worked with interns, I have a lot of interns who come in and they’re like, ‘I’ll do whatever you want, I can give you the time’ because they really want the internship, so they promised the moon,” Lindsay said. “I feel like they need to be honest with themselves.”

“They’re just setting themselves up for failure, and they think they can be Superman or Superwoman until they burn out quickly, and fast, and the school suffers.”

Cheryl Larsen, interim director with Western’s Office of Field Experience also emphasized the importance of mental health.

“Self-care is so critically important because if you’re not taking care of yourself, you can’t take care of anything else,” Larsen said. “During high-stress times like finals week and when you actually get your first job, you’re learning to take on the responsibilities.”

“Having those self-care strategies that work for you helps to restore that balance and healthy mindset in your life reducing stress,” she said. “Care for the relationships and the things that are important in your life.”

She suggested scheduling obligations carefully and maintaining a calendar so students can avoid overscheduled weeks and impossible deadlines, which are also critical skills in the professional world. 

 “Students need to work on ensuring their workload, school workload and internship workload is balanced in a healthy way with life’s other needs.”

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