Hi readers, this post is aimed (generally) at future members of Americorps, particularly the program I am currently leaving: the Hudson Valley Corps of the Student Conservation Association. It will contain information that is relevant to other Americorps positions, other “year of service” type positions, and for those of you not in the ‘future intern’ role, a glimpse at my day-to-day-life for the past year. I have auto-scheduled this entry to post during the Recognition Ceremony for my position (so don’t worry SCA-types, I’m probably paying attention,) though I will have about a week of regular interning left after this entry. (Also, posts for the remainder of November may be sparse as I am knee-deep in moving, job-hunting, and National Novel Writing Month.)
(Just a note that the opinions and experiences in this post, actually this blog in its entirety, are mine and do not represent those of Americorps or any other entity.)
Dear Future Interns,
Hi! It’s a great thing that you’re doing- taking a year out of your life to serve a community in an Americorps position. I don’t know what brought you here, but I chose this path because I wasn’t sure about my career or continuing education goals after college. If you’re anything like me, you’ll appreciate a bit of advice in the BEGINNING of your internship so you don’t get crazy stressed out at the end. So here are a few ideas that may assist you:
1) Overload on hours at the beginning of your term. No, really. Work on nights and weekends, join in other SCAs’ volunteer days or service projects, go out and walk the trails. Count any time you’re doing work-related stuff as hours and log it faithfully on the SCA site. The hours requirement DOES NOT CONSIDER FEDERAL HOLIDAYS, sick days, personal time, snow days, or times your host office generously allows people to leave at 2pm on Fridays. It expects you to work 40 hours a week, EVERY week. You don’t want to be working 12 hour days the last month of your internship to make up for the fact that the office was closed a few times in February. There WILL be times when you’re working and your supervisor is not. It’s just a thing. Figure out as soon as you can what you can do outside of the normal work week.
2) Pack your lunch. No, really. The Americorps living stipend isn’t much and you’ll want to have a TINY bit of padding in case you have to go to the doctor or get your car repaired. A lot of SCA/Americorps members go on food stamps, which can help, but you know what else can help? Packing your lunch. Even $5 for a slice of pizza and a soda every workday sets you back $50 out of your 2-week stipend, which severely cuts into your gas/oil change/other groceries/new-sweater-when-yours-gets-covered-in-paint budget. (Plus, generally lunches will cost more than $5.) Also budget related, sign up for a library card! You can download ebooks if ink and paper isn’t your thing, and they’re just as free!
3) Get to know your office-mates! This is something I failed at from day one- being a parks and trails intern I was only in the office once a week (and that day filled with meetings) and by the end of my term, there were still lots of people in the office whose names I didn’t know. My fellow interns had much more active social lives because they found office-mates who had similar tastes in music, socialization, or hobbies. I could have had a yarn/knitting friend this whole time but didn’t know her name till October! (Yes, I am a nerd.)
4) About the social life thing- it is possible, even on the limited budget and time. Get to know other interns in your area near the beginning of your term and invite your favorites over for board game nights, movie nights, (insert food here) making parties, etc. Staying at home is always cheaper than going out, and normally more fun!
5) Do you! You can still engage in your hobbies and interests outside of work. Meetup.com is a possibility if you’re looking for people who share your extracurricular activities- or, drag your newfound SCA or internship friends with you! Decorate your space, listen to your music, do what you like in your free time. Just because you’re a professional tree hugger (or other Americorps intern) now doesn’t mean you have to dedicate 24/7 to trees. You can still take a mini road trip to see Motley Crue (well, you can’t, unless they continue their Final Tour into a third or fourth or fifth year, but… you know what I mean), take a weekend to party in the city, go home for some family time– provided you did like I said in #1 and gave yourself free time by working a lot at the beginning.
6) Admit when you need help. Your SCA advisor and your supervisor can be great resources, and they understand that a lot of us are moving into a new situation and living on a shoestring budget. Especially if you get ahead in your hours, it’s totally possible (and expected) to take a personal day when you’re feeling overwhelmed or need to do job interviews and find your next post- they understand this is just a stepping stone for us, and can be extremely valuable. Other interns are also great to vent to- you’re not in this alone.
Anyways, future interns, your path through this year will be different from mine, but I hope you learn a lot, get muddy, have fun, and emerge victorious.