Trip Finder

Ditch the Internship, Embrace Other Summer Opportunities by Ellie Kollme

February 21, 2024

In a column originally published in The Daily Tar Heel, incoming First Year Moondance Leader Ellie Kollme discusses her decision to forge her own path. One different, and personally more fulfilling, than the one chose by many of her peers who are pursuing corporate summer internships. Ellie is from Davidson, North Carolina, is a sophomore Journalism and Psychology major at UNC Chapel Hill, and worked as a Camp Counselor at Camp Illahee last summer. We are so excited to welcome her to the Moondance Family! If you are thinking about being a Moondance leader in future summers, check this out!


It seems like every season is internship season. While some of my friends are securing their internships for this summer, others are already being interviewed for positions for next year while researching for 2025 at the same time. 


The hunt for internships is beginning earlier and earlier, even creeping into high school students’ agenda. Internships definitely were not on my radar in high school, and they aren’t on my radar now.


There is so much value in unique life experiences and building essential life skills that will help you better your future and catapult you into any profession.


I want to preface that internships can be valuable, and if that’s something you truly want to do with your summer, then I encourage it. What I do not encourage is making yourself miserable for three months just because it’s “the norm.” I challenge you to find a job where you are doing something out of the box or something you love, because what you learn from these experiences can take you further than you might think.


Last summer, I was a camp counselor at Camp Illahee, an all-girls summer camp in Brevard, N.C. I spent seven weeks in the mountains taking care of sixth and seventh graders while simultaneously reliving my experience as a camper. I taught pickleball, gave swim lessons and showed my campers how to be more independent and respectful girls.


This job restored a sense of pure childlike joy in me that I thought I had lost. At the same time, it was incredibly rewarding because I had never been in a leadership role where I had that autonomy. There was no one to reassure me that my decisions were the right ones, teaching me how to be confident in my actions and trust I was making the right choices.


I not only was responsible for myself, but also for dozens of younger girls who I needed to take care of. I learned how to put my needs behind me and focus on others, no matter what. I became aware of my effect on others, prompting me to focus more on my interpersonal interactions and to truly be intentional with my actions and choices.


All this from sharing a cabin with eight 11-year-olds for two months.


These skills will benefit me in the real world, in my future endeavors, in job interviews and in the unexpected.


Sure, a camp counselor does not appear to be one of the most sophisticated jobs on the planet, but these traits are ones that employers often look for, while also making for a better and more well-rounded person overall. Showing that you have leadership skills and are willing to take a risk away from the status quo can benefit you more than you realize, both from a job standpoint to a well-being standpoint.


Being a camp counselor is not everyone’s forte, but there are plenty of other opportunities. Volunteering somewhere is a rewarding and resume-building experience. Studying abroad is another popular option — and there are many work exchange websites that provide room and board in exchange for labor. Workawayand Worldpackers are common companies that have programs all over the world. The possibilities are near endless.


Do something you care about because it will make you happier. This seems obvious, but it is often forgotten in the midst of following the perceived trail of academic and life “success.” 


We are stuck in a cycle of trying to stand out, get ahead and set ourselves up for success for the rest of our lives at only 19- or 20-years-old, an expectation that is ridiculous and unrealistic. If working is a must, then try to incorporate something that will fulfill you within that job.


Whatever you choose to do should not be from the pressure to build your resume, it should be for you. Do something different, develop skills just as valuable as an internship and learn more about yourself. The office isn’t going anywhere.


–Ellie Kollme, First-Year Moondance Leader