Last summer, I was accepted into the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Summer Trainee in Aging Research (STAR) Internship Program. I totally was not expecting the mixing bowl of emotions that followed. So I have broken it down into “5 stages,” so that you too might be prepared when you get that phone call or email with “congratulations!” in the subject line.
At the NIH Biomedical Research Center at Johns Hopkins Bayview campus, I worked in the Laboratory of Genetics and Gerontology (LGG), researching and culturing Hela Cells, C2-C12 Cells, and RNA Isolation from Protein. I participated in the poster presentation on the last day of the internship (which was fun and educative as well). My summer with the National Institute of Health was filled with stimulating challenges, and grand rewards, and above all, fond memories. As a STAR intern, I participated in the weekly journal clubs, and the Monday seminars conducted by Post Doctoral Fellows. Even though I was the only community college intern at the NIH, I enjoyed every single moment of it and would like to continue with research when I transfer.
PHOTO ABOVE: My last day at the Johns Hopkins Bayview campus, with my wonderful boss and the Director of the Summer Trainee in Aging Research (STAR) Internship Program.
Stage 1: Denial
What?! I actually got it? This has to be a mistake! You may ask yourself questions such as: “I was totally stumbling over my words during my elevator speech at the job fair!” or “I didn’t even feel like I was trying too hard with that position!” or even “Didn’t that recruiter notice that my tie was on crooked?”
For me, I was confused the first time I saw the full list of my fellow interns. As I read down, I saw students from some top-tier colleges such as Cornell, Columbia, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins etc. Oh my gosh, I just couldn’t believe they would select me. Maybe they misspelled my email address? Surely there can be someone else with a similar address! There’s just no way! Is this real? Is anything real?… But I’m glad it was real though.
Stage 2: Overwhelming Excitement♠
“Oh yeah!! They selected me!” All those hours I spent polishing my resume and working on my application, finally paid off! I wouldn’t blame you if you feel like you’re on top of the world because it will definitely feel that way. I was like,
“The NIH has selected me out of a pile of what must be thousands! I’m finally going to experience something completely new and figure out what it’s like to work in a Johns Hopkins Laboratory. Man once I get this on my resume I can do anything, get into any four-year college and probably any job in the pharmaceutical industry!”.
All these good feelings all at once, and It felt so good! At this point, you might even think of posting it on either Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter – GO AHEAD!. In my case, I didn’t. As far as I remember, there was no reason behind that decision actually.
Stage 3: Logistical Genius
“Wait! this changes everything! I don’t drive”. “How am I going to even get myself all the way there, for 10 weeks straight??” Something good happened on the Interview day though. I was offered a free and loaded MTA CHARMCARD (A CharmCard is a rechargeable smart fare card you can use on Local Bus, Light Rail, and Metro Subway), so transportation was officially not a problem!.
I still had questions like: Where am I gonna even live? I forgot to check if they gave you housing! I hope they don’t make me camp on the street! Will there be free breakfast every morning? Will they make fun of me because I attend a community college? Will I need a sweater? How often will it rain?.
Never forget to ask questions, to your future internship coordinator: “Do you have any questions for me?” Also feel free to ask them, “How can I get the best out of this experience”
Stage 4: Slight Sadness
“Wow, well I mean I got this amazing opportunity to spend the summer somewhere new. But at the same time, what about all my plans here at home? I will not be able to do all those cool things I said I would do this summer like learn to play the electric organ. Why do I have to do something like this? Other majors don’t spend a summer away from home. This will be an amazing experience but at the same time, I have to clear some emotional hurdles before I feel 100% on board”.
That was how I felt after a few days. You may or may not experience some slightly sad moments but it is definitely emotional to embark on something new. Moreso, take a moment to visualize what the experience would look like.
Stage 5: Acceptance and Eagerness
“So I think I’ve come to grips with this. I’m going to be spending a summer in a new place doing something I have a passion for,” said me. The experience I gained from the NIH will be valuable in the future and in the short few weeks I will be there, I also made many lifelong connections and it opened many doors to several more opportunities to grow and change my future professional path. The memories you will make at your internship are those you’ll surely carry with you for the rest of your life.
So, I hope that you have an idea of what to expect now. Keep in mind that there are many other students just as excited/nervous as you are! it’s fine. The career services office is a great support system and a great way to find out about more jobs as well as internships. Also, great news – the Dundalk campus is hosting a Job fair from 10:00am – 2:00pm, you should definitely check it out! Good luck with any future internship and remember… HAVE FUN with the process!