This is dedicated to every student out there, preparing to set foot into the big bubble of white collars. This is my experience of the corporate world.
Ever since I started college, I have been looking forward to being a ‘working woman’. The suits, the desks, the paycheck … all of this makes it look so glitz and glam. I grew up watching my father enjoy the perks of it all. But little did I know of the grind.
And there I was on 12 June 2023, in my neatly-ironed shirt, trousers, laptop in hand, and close to zero expectations. I walked into the office, and the image of a large, noisy office was replaced by a minimal set-up.
My first few days are a blur. I felt alien and stupid. The feeling of incompetency is so hurtful to a young person trying to survive in a new environment doing their best. The purpose of this internship was to be exposed to the corporate world, and boy, was I exposed. Every day, I saw new challenges. It was like jumping hurdles in a race with no visible finish line. I could not see the end!
The straw that broke the camel’s back was one day that I remember so vividly. I walked into the office with my first project completed. But the feedback I received was not even close to what I expected. It felt like I was back to day one — lost, confused. I wanted to run home as I had been away for over six months and I could not bear this environment anymore. I left early that day.
I’m not proud of what I did, but all I knew was that I needed to feel safe that day because I had hit rock bottom. From that day onwards, I set a new goal and priority. As an engineering student who had just completed second year, I decided to go back to my purpose and remind myself to be a student. My priority was college deadlines, following instructions from my professor and finishing this evaluated internship to the best of my ability.
Today, as I sit here at my desk for the last time, I feel okay. But most importantly, I feel ready to move on, which is not a bad thing. I feel accomplished that I have fulfilled my purpose in the past two months and survived it physically and mentally. I have completed a long list of firsts and an even longer list of learnings worth introspecting.
During the course, I felt emotions that I could not describe and that nobody seemed to understand. I felt lonely and isolated, but it also re-taught me how to survive alone. Having supportive family and friends gives you a sense of comfort. But what happens when they are away from you, and most importantly not on the same wavelength as you? This reminded me of the strength within — the little voice in your head — the voice that matters most. Your own thoughts, views, opinions, feelings — they’re the most valuable part of your conscience and will remain as long as you live.
This was my experience and yours may be different. It reminded me of how much I love studying biotechnology. My academic mind was in denial of this love, after it got blinded by the universally-set route of attaining degrees to get jobs and earn money. I feel blessed to have gotten this opportunity that reminded me of my purpose, my aptitude, my joy.
One day, I may look back and disagree with my current opinions. But for now, this is me signing off from a desk job and getting back to my books, microscopes and bacterial cultures for as long as life allows.