June 27, 2012

Is this real life?

By James Keating, U.S. Grains Council Intern

I have discovered that the university life has sheltered me from the real world. You know, the world where your work actually has “real time” consequences. No longer is my success dependent on red ink and term papers that can be easily redone or overcome, but rather my success hinders on immovable deadlines and responsibilities. While the lectures, term papers, and endless debates on every college subject under the sun has provided me with the cognitive power necessary for the real world. I find my practical skills to be lacking, but then again I suppose that is what internships are all about. 

My naivety had led me to believe that despite any work experience I could just jump right in and be a natural at virtually anything I chose to do after graduation. I have discovered that this train of thought is completely misguided. The seminars on the global political economy had not prepared me for the copy machine or the reception desk, and certainly the philosophies of Max Weber and Adam Smith hadn’t prepared me for the attention to detail needed to be an effective “communicator”. All too often we undergrads forget that the real world overlaps into other areas. For instance, I study politics and have the aim to use that knowledge in my career goals centered on teaching and research but I am discovering that much more is expected of you in the real world. Four months ago, I would of shook my head and agreed that this is common sense, but living the reality is another story and feel like while some undergrads are more prepared than others, my sentiment isn’t that far off from typical junior professionals. 

While my internship centers around the global agriculture trade, my duties are primarily as a communicator. Writing news releases, the maintenance of websites and organizing trade teams are the things I work on the most. While I love my coursework, none of it had prepared me for many of these duties. After all, what do I know about web design or the Associated Press style of writing? It turns out….not much. While it seems like I am learning a new skill daily it has occurred to me that just about the time I will be comfortable with everything it will be time me for to resume my studies. All of these factors just make the internship opportunity so much more valuable. I strongly recommend my fellow undergrads to step out of your comfort zones as much as possible. The greatest asset that I am currently acquiring, which also happens to be the hardest one to adjust, is attention to detail. To my own admission, this trait has not been a strong suit of mine and college has allowed for it to go on undeveloped. In the real world, attention to detail is paramount. When it is all said and done, this will be the biggest advantage I will have gained from this internship. It makes a lot of sense that internships are needed for most college students to graduate. They do something that campuses can’t. Force you into practical situations. Tests are over. 

On unrelated news, I have been discovering a greater amount of the city. As every day passes, more of my relationships with the “locals” are being cemented into things that will last long past this internship. I randomly struck conversation with a fellow university student who attends Georgetown; turns out he is from Broken Bow, NE. I couldn’t help but think what a small world. It was a pleasant surprise to say the least. 

This past weekend I finally started to do the “touristy” thing. My first historical visit was to the Holocaust Museum, and despite the high praise it received from all my friends, it was still able to blow my expectations away. This is definitely one of the best museums in the country. Stayed tuned as I expect the next few weeks to intensify with the “touristy” things. This coming weekend I will see the famous Camden Yards in Baltimore with a visiting friend from Nebraska.

The U.S. Grains Council is hosting James Keating of Ogallala, Neb., as their first summer intern supported by a partnership between the Nebraska Corn Board and USGC. David is a senior in political science at the University of Nebraska – Kearney. He will be working with policy, assisting with international trade teams and helping to develop promotions and international relations.

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