Summer, the months carved out of the school year for travel and relaxation, has now become the window of opportunity for us to get ahead by either interning or committing to a paying job. Unfortunately, that window remains tightly shut for some students still looking to stay in Austin.
Costs pile up when living in the city. While a student can expect financial aid for classes, according to UT, summer tuition is equivalent to the tuition rate of 85 percent of regular semester coursework. Then add how much a person spends on housing, transportation, food and the things that make life fun.
For advertising junior Annie Chang, staying in Austin means paying for her own sublease, equivalent to $500 a month, plus living expenses.
“I told my parents it was important that I stayed in Austin and that I can’t be in El Paso forever,” Chang said. “I’ve definitely got a better chance here than back home.”
Chang was offered unpaid communications internships as early as May, but decided to look for a paid position in the same field.
“I keep applying, but it’s just that people take so long to get back to you and I don’t have a car so it makes everything ten times harder,” Chang said. “It’s really difficult, especially since it’s almost halfway through the summer.”
Although Chang has considered taking on any paying job, she says she wouldn’t want to sacrifice her goals for the extra cash.
“I don’t want to give up,” Chang said. “Honestly, I would rather being doing something that’s related to my major, develop my skills further and getting paid for that.”
For Chang, it’s worrying to wonder whether this dry spell is an omen for her ability to secure a job in the future.
“I’ve just gotten so down over the summer,” Chang said, “because I feel like, ‘Why I am not getting hired? Is there something about me?’ I don’t know.”
Although it’s the middle of June, some still have hope. International relations and global studies junior Zamira Rodriguez started the job and internship search the right away. She utilized UT-sponsored databases like Hire A Longhorn, AccessUT and Beyond the Tower Gateway for liberal arts students, in addition to consulting with Career Services for resume and cover letter advice right around finals season. For the past two months, she’s been applying for positions and showing up for interviews all over Austin.
“I’m super discouraged at this point, because once I get out of the interview, I feel like I totally have the job,” Rodriguez said. “But they don’t even call you back.”
Because of parental pressure, Rodriguez knew she either had to find experience for the “real world” or return to her hometown of Rio Grande City five hours away.
“I basically have one more interview next week and if that doesn’t happen, I’m just gonna head back home,” Rodriguez said.
Fortunately, Rodriguez did get the job and will soon be interning with a well-known humanitarian organization for the rest of the summer and fall semester. She’s ecstatic but mindful of the need to search for job and internships for the future.
“If I could offer someone advice, I’d definitely say that if you want to find a summer internship, start applying really far in advance,” Rodriguez said.
Debbie Kubena, director of the Communication Career Services office, says that while the job market in Austin is good, following up with thank-you notes, phone calls, or emails after an interview are important to being a standout candidate.
“The competition is so fierce that those small things can make all the difference in the world,” Kubena said.
Kubena suggests that students take a look at their own personal network for opportunities and create a LinkedIn profile if they haven’t already got one.
“It’s all about networking and as hard as that is for a lot of people, it’s truly what can open some doors for them,” Kubena said. “They’ve just gotta keep on keepin’ on.”
One difficult aspect about securing internships is that most “great” placements prefer previous experience. So we ask, “How can I get more internships if I can’t even catch one break?” Start creating experience for yourself by volunteering for organizations related to your interests, if not your major. It’s something to add to your resume and can help develop transferable skills that will be impressive in any interview, job or internship whether it’s tomorrow or five years from now. Pursue your passions for the moment, while that time is more or less free. Someday you could get paid for it, and hopefully that day comes soon.
This is the time of the year when we’re supposed to have fun, enjoy the time off and make sure we’re not on the road to burning out by the time fall finally comes around. If anything, enjoy the fact that you don’t have to wake up for early morning classes or call times. Keep hope and plan early. The time will come for more clear successes and there is no time like the present to create learning moments.
Piedad is a journalism junior from San Antonio.