At the beginning of my summer, this is what I had attributed my opportunity to live and intern in California to — luck. My experiences over the past summer were never something that I had considered for my personal plan nor were they a possibility that I thought could be on my radar. But when I received the call from my recruiter during spring break, I knew it was something that I had to take.
But still, my constant worries about the future did not end there. Once I had secured my dream summer internship, my mind immediately began to ruminate on the next big thing. Would I succeed at my work? Would I fit into the company culture? Would I be able to live on my own? Is this the right place for me?
And as my start date drew closer and my plane landed in California, I was filled with more doubts. When was my luck going to run out? How would my non-technical skills have a place within the tech giant world?
I remember landing in San Francisco, arriving at the hotel that would become my home for the next three months and immediately calling my family and friends from Hopkins that night. I was lonely and nervous that I would not meet people, make friends and succeed at this new endeavor.
Little did I know that a mere week later, all of that would change after a hiking trip during my first weekend in the Bay. After ending up in a random car and spending the afternoon talking and hiking with my carpool-mates, one of the drivers asked me if I would be down to go on a trip to Lake Tahoe with 13 other strangers.
At first I was apprehensive. But thanks to the encouragement of my manager — who strongly advocated for a good work-life balance — I said “yes.” To this day I look back at that decision as one of the significant moments that changed my summer.
Two weeks after my first night alone in the Bay, I was chilling in a hot tub in Lake Tahoe with 13 other interns, playing “hot seat,” exposing our insecurities and trying to warm off after hiking in the (unexpected) snow.
Four weeks later, I was with the same group of people getting ready in our thrifted ‘70s gear to attend an ABBA-themed nightclub in San Francisco.
Six weeks later we were driving down the coastline to spend the day in the cutest little beach town of Carmel before chasing the sunset back up to Shark Fin Cove.
Nine weeks later, we were all huddling around a beach bonfire in Santa Cruz, making s’mores and reminiscing on the summer.
10 weeks later we gathered under the rainbow all together for the last time to say our goodbyes, as some people were ending their internships earlier.
As we reflected on the summer, our favorite point of conversation drifted back towards our individual journeys to that random Tahoe trip. While a few people were involved in planning the trip, everyone else was like me who knew a friend of a friend of a friend. We were all amazed at how lucky we felt to have clicked together so well. Now even as we are all spread out across the country again back in our individual colleges, we remain invested in each other’s futures and look forward to planning reunion trips.
Even if I spent most of my summer with this group, they comprise a fraction of the many inspiring individuals I had the opportunity to meet and work with in California, all from whom I learned invaluable lessons that redefined how I was viewing my future.
Whenever I joined a call with someone new, my favorite question to ask is “What was your journey to get here?” Though everyone had a unique story to share in response to that question, I learned a universal lesson from the multitude of conversations: life is truly a winding path.
This was a reality that I had never really internalized until I heard all of the varying stories from everyone I met. It comforted me and made me see that life rarely plays out as planned, and I did not have to limit my opportunities to align with the initial path I envisioned. We can definitely prepare for our future and try to account for challenges as much as we want, but there will always be unexpected curveballs and moments that may set us on a new path. In fact through reflections and conversations, I realized that many of my past experiences were unintentionally setting me up for this role. Though I still feel as if I am taking life too seriously at times now that I’m back at Hopkins, I aim to adopt this mentality that I had developed over the summer.
As someone who loves staying busy and filling up every last hour of my schedule, I did enjoy being active and preoccupied over the summer. However, I also realized the importance of setting aside time to relax and be at peace by myself, free of the distractions of work or concerns over upcoming deadlines. When I had rare free times that were not filled with weekend plans, I tried to go on little adventures on my own by taking walks to coffee shops and trails near my hotel while enjoying the perfect Bay Area breeze.
Whenever people ask me about my summer, I always stumble to find the words that could completely encapsulate not only the memories made but the impact it had on my growth. Professionally my work exposed me to some of the hard truths about corporate life and the importance of cross-functional collaboration with different teams to drive a project forward.
More than that my experiences also completely shifted my mindset and allowed me to develop more confidence in my abilities. Instead of worrying about when my luck would run out as I look towards the future, I recognize that my preparation and skills, in addition to a stroke of good fortune, carried me through toward a successful summer. As one of my team members said: Luck = Preparation + Opportunity.
But I cannot claim these successes as truly my own. I attribute so much of it to my team as well as my mentors and manager who provided me with unconditional support and advice and gave me the space to fulfill my own potential with their guidance. Being exposed to a different work culture and learning style from my team also allowed me to develop a better idea of the kind of leader I want to be, which is something I strive to do for our editors and writers back at The News-Letter.
Like any other person, I still have moments of doubt and unease about the future, but I now recognize that life is a never-ending series of opportunities for growth. My time in California was a stepping stone to many more possibilities within my grasp — you truly never know what a simple “yes” can lead to!
Michelle Limpe is a senior from the Philippines studying Chemistry and Public Health. She is an Editor-in-Chief for The News-Letter. In her articles, she likes to reflect on finding the silver linings in life to give meaning to her struggles.