Photo provided by Luke Parsnow
When people have asked me throughout the years “what is college like?” my favorite response has always been “Well, college makes you broke, sleep-deprived, and broke.”
Money is always going to be the most important subject when it comes to higher education. It always has been. But it’s a lot more than just the thousands of dollars of tuition. Things like textbooks, school supplies, clothing, and food are all expenses that every college student grumbles about when they’re trying to save and they keep having to dig into their wallets.
The solution? Easy—get a job, right?
Now, I grew up in an area that wasn’t exactly prosperous. I’m 21 years old and I’ve never held more than $1,100 in my hands. I’ve had one summer job that paid $8.50 an hour. That was a blessing that came at the right time. I had to go into my reserves just to buy the $0.89 manila folder to put my application for the job in.
Last spring, I hit the biggest crossroads I’ve ever had in my life. I was at the end of my junior year, I had a year of experience as being assistant news editor at The Oswegonian, I needed an internship in order to graduate and summer was coming up fast, and I was also out of money.
I can’t even remember how many sleepless nights were spent wondering about what to do. I was told about an internship in Albany that I would most likely get. Remember, my major requires me to have an internship to graduate. But it would be unpaid and it was 3 hours away from where I live. To make things more difficult, my boss from my 2013 summer job contacted me and approved me for another summer session if I wanted it.
The Legislative Gazette, a newspaper covering New York State government and politics, where Luke interned this summer.
I basically had to make the decision of “Do I go do an internship that will be good for me and will help me find a job someday? Or do I make sure I don’t go broke my senior year?”
I feel like this is a terrible decision that a college student should have to make. I wasn’t the only one either.
One of my friends told me that she got accepted to do an internship as an assistant school psychologist in New Jersey, but she had to turn it down to continue working at Subway in order to pay for her rent and textbooks the next semester.
With no car, no definite place to stay, no experience in public transportation, no knowing what exactly the internship was about, and about $100 in my pocket, I decided to go for the internship.
Having not much money to start out with, paying the bus fare, taxi fare, and food wasn’t exactly making my wallet happy. But I decided to risk it.
And it was worth the risk.
I survived somehow. With a few playing shows, a few generous people, and luck (including finding a lawyer’s lost cell phone and providing me with a $100 reward) I made it through the summer with extremely limited income and heavy expenses.
While I did not make money last summer, I made a lot more. I made connections, I made a new form of confidence in myself that I’ve never seen before, I made a well-respected addition to my resume, and I made a stepping stone to the future I want to go forward in.
An article Luke wrote on a rally urging the State Legislature to vote on minimum wage reform.
And it made sense to do it. Instead of mowing lawns and watering flowers I was able to meet Governor Andrew Cuomo, witness political rallies, write articles on various political subjects, talk to interesting people on the phone, live in a city for the first time, visit several presidential graves and Franklin Roosevelt’s library and museum, and a lot of other things.
I’ve encountered many obstacles with the things I’ve wanted to do in college. But I can honestly say that I have never failed in them. I found a way. I always found a way to make happen what I need to. Despite my situation, I always found a way. Most of the time it just wasn’t how I had imagined it.
And it was the right decision. It may have left me poorer for my senior year, but money is just a number. The experience I had and the lessons I learned over the summer will be the thing that pays me better in the long run than a large paycheck from Subway.