The search for summer internships this year was anything but easy. Last year, I was lucky enough to be hired for the only internship I applied for, and it just so happened that it was my dream position. This year, however, my luck very much shifted. Like many college students, I applied to more positions than I can remember and didn’t hear back from 90% of them. It was extremely frustrating to spend hours and hours researching different organizations, writing countless cover letters, and not knowing when/if there was an end in sight to the search. By the beginning of May, I gave up and became set on working at a fast food restaurant instead to make some extra spending money. It wasn’t the ideal outcome, but I became more content with the idea of it as the days passed by. I was thus very pleasantly surprised when I got an email from the customer service representative at the Pennsylvania Prison Society, explaining that my email somehow went to their spam folder and that they were still looking to fill some internship positions. I very much felt conflicted after reading this email – do I write yet another cover letter that they very likely won’t read? Do I pour a bunch of effort into this application when I’ve already accepted the fact that an internship is likely not in the cards for me this year? Why do I even want an internship so badly – Is it experience that I genuinely want to gain, or is it the toxic work culture that begins building the moment you step into college? What’s the point of wasting all that time when I could be studying for finals or spending some last-minute quality time with my friends as the semester winds down? At the end of the day though, I decided to bite the bullet and send in that last application. The more I researched the organization and its mission to help the incarcerated and fight for just prison reform, I knew this was a group I would genuinely enjoy volunteering my time to.
I interviewed with the representative the next day, and the interview went extremely well. When I got hired a few days later, I felt a real sense of peace about the upcoming few months. I knew the once-a-week commute to the Philly office would be a challenge at first, as I had never walked the Philly streets alone before. I also knew I wouldn’t be earning anything, as the organization is a non-profit and cannot offer compensation. Most importantly, I knew that committing to a full-time position for the very first time would require a huge learning curve. Nonetheless, I had a gut feeling that all of those challenges would be worth it, and I was very much correct.
Amtrak has become a huge part of my life over the past few years. Though it’s often quite pricey, it gets me from college to home and vice versa safely and soundly. I used to be quite scared of sitting on the train alone for 7 hours, but after a couple of solo trips, it became a pretty natural process for me. Those 7 hours give me the space to catch up on a good book, process the things in my life that I’ve been too busy to give real thought to, and get ahead on work or school. The alone time does me wonders, and it’s something I was really looking forward to as I stepped onto the train to Richmond last week.
The train was fully booked, so our seats were assigned to us. I made my way down the aisle, eventually finding my seat – D14. In the seat directly next to mine was a middle-aged white man. He offered to lift my huge suitcase onto the overhead compartment, and my noodle arms were quite thankful that he did. I thanked him, sat down, and remained quiet for the first two hours of the train ride as I typed up some articles for my internship. Most people on the train weren’t talking unless they were sitting with friends or family members, so the lack of conversation between me and my seat-mate did not surprise nor disappoint me. As I chipped away at my work for the week, I noticed him taking pictures of the scenery that we were passing by, just as I often do when I am blessed with the window seat. When we were pulling up to the 30-minute Washington D.C. stop, he turned to me, explained that it was his first time taking Amtrak, and asked if it was a bad idea to leave his belongings on the train while he finds the bathroom. I told him that it’s a pretty safe train, but that I usually take my bags anyway. He thanked me, and we talked briefly about our respective destinations before getting off the train.
Coronavirus has killed more people this week than ever before, taking more lives than Pearl Harbor in single days. It is impossible to watch the news for long before hearing a Coronavirus death count update. People sick with conditions unrelated to Coronavirus are dying because they are too afraid to enter hospitals- virus hotspots. Moreover, suicide rates in our country are higher than ever before, for many people truly cannot deal with the isolation and hopelessness of this pandemic. Not to sound too existential, but it really feels like this disease is making the concept of death much more of a tangible threat to all of us. The saddest and most enraging part of this whole tragedy to me, however, is the audacity of the federal government to do what they did a few nights ago: deliberately choose to take an additional life. I cannot and will not ever be able to wrap my head around how the government, and specifically President Trump, found it permissible to carry out a federal execution during an era already filled with so many unjust deaths.