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Crossing the Internship Line

Postcard from New York

By Hana R. Alberts

THE INTERNSHIP LINE—“You have big jigglies,” Jordan said to me.

For the record, Jordan is not some Harvard fledgling trying to redeem himself after mistakenly dropping the H-bomb. He’s slightly more mature—perhaps a tad shorter—and spends about the same number of hours playing his Nintendo GameCube.

Six-year-old Jordan shared his keen anatomical observation on the Major Deegan Expressway while we were on the bus to Camp Hillard, a day camp in Scarsdale, N.Y., where I’ve worked for the past two summers. Jordan wasn’t fazed by my imposing title of “bus captain”—instead, he and his rising first-grade compadres continually shouted out jiggly-centered jibes and poked me as I carefully sidestepped up and down the aisle of the bus. I had to bite my lips to keep from laughing, but I was stern with him—and his mother. To make matters worse, I relive the memory often. My whole family and countless other camp counselors bring up the incident weekly.

Although Jordan’s teasing stands out as one of my most unforgettable camp moments, my summers at Hillard gave me non-harassing memories as well. I won the counselors’ crazy dive contest, and watched two dozen off-key 8-year-old girls sing Simon and Garfunkel’s “Feelin’ Groovy.” I recommended that Lily read The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and the very next day she said she’d gotten it from the library, read it and loved it. I told her that I was an avid reader—just like her—when I was younger. But after two summers of blissful outdoor fun, I reluctantly decided to get a “real job.”

I applied for an internship at NYC2012, the organization bidding for a New York Olympic Games in 2012. With nothing but camp on my resume, I got a job working for the staff writer. Sitting at my desk on the 34th floor, I overlook the World Trade Center site as I write newsletter articles and web updates, and research venues and sports history.

It’s different, to say the least. Instead of coddling imaginary injuries, I’m trying to prevent myself from getting carpal tunnel syndrome. Instead of the insult-laden, crowded camp bus, I now ride to work on the insult-laden, crowded number 4 train. And instead of arriving at Harvard well-tanned with sun-kissed hair, the office lighting has colored my complexion in the opposite direction—uber-pale. But the office has taught me how to be more disciplined and mature. And I have to admit it feels good to talk to adults who respect my opinion and consider my suggestions valid—it’s a far cry from explaining to 5-year-olds that yes, I watched movies when I was younger too, and no, they were not in black and white.

I realized I couldn’t go back to camp now, no matter how much I missed it. It was as if I had crossed this invisible line into adulthood—the Internship Line. I now had to wear heels to work instead of sneakers. I had to stop singing songs about underwear and start nodding off to my headphones on the subway. Gone were the days of the 3:30 ice cream refreshment. While everyone in my office heads down for their daily dosage of Starbucks, I sit at my desk forlornly because I don’t like coffee. After counting adults among my colleagues and buying an article of clothing from Brooks Brothers for the first time, it seemed inevitable that I could never go back to camp.

But then I visited Hillard for a day. I soaked in all the welcoming smiles, the campers’ exuberant whoops and the feeling of freedom that a good game of “capture the flag” provides. I devoured hot dogs and my coveted blue ice pop—a camp treasure—and I was filled with this crazy desire to ditch the office and finish out the summer at camp.

But, as any responsible young woman who signed a contract would do, I went back to the office. And honestly, I like it. True, I’m having a different, more subtle kind of fun where fluorescent lighting shines instead of summer sun. But I know it’s good for me. For a change, I’ve been listening to my mom, who encourages me to experience new things all the time—it will teach me to pick the right path in the end. She says I’ll gain perspective.

So in 15 years, when I own Camp Hillard, I’ll be confident I made the right decision.

Hana R. Alberts ’06, a Crimson editor, is a history and science concentrator in Mather House. She spends her days missing Camp Hillard’s ice cream snack at 3:30 every afternoon. To compensate, she eats a granola bar at her desk. It’s better than a grande frappuccino.

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