Honors Students away from campus for study abroad, co-ops, or internships are encouraged to write about their experiences to share them with the Honors community. In the post below, Haylee Matecko ’18 shares her experience working as an intern this past semester and her thoughts on making mistakes and feeling at home.
– By Haylee Matecko
Be a sponge, be open, communicate, build relationships, have strong technical skills, be aware of everything going on around you. In a nutshell, I’ve described both my first week and the expectations that were set forth for this internship. It’s incredibly important for interns to constantly be learning and growing, while also taking responsibilities and working towards that potential job offer in our midst.
Our first week was pure training, and it was incredibly fun. We were in the Dallas office all week; just the North Texas region for the first couple days and joined by Houston on Wednesday. It felt a bit like summer camp instead of my actual job, and I think that was a result of the hotel and breakfast buffets. I met quite a few amazing people who were all my intern peers, one of whom I’ll be working with. Casey is a super sweet person who is interested in the same things as me, which we quickly discovered as roommates at training. HGTV and healthy foods became something fun that we bonded over.
Just when we made it to our home office in Austin, the interns were tasked with decorating the offices of our manager and partner for their birthdays, and I think we succeeded! Here’s a “candid” shot of us decorating. It’s supposed to go in their newsletter, which is exciting! (Basically, I’m going to be famous.)
Throughout the internship, I had tasks similar to this, like ordering lunch for the whole office, or formulating letters to send to clients- these seem minimal, but to me they meant everything. I didn’t want to make a single mistake, because I was afraid of what would follow. In reality, everyone would probably be incredibly gracious about it and help me to the best of their abilities- and they were when I did make mistakes. But in my mind, they would be upset and/or hangry (we all know that could have happened), and always remember me as “the girl that fell through on lunch.” So anyways, I overcame my nerves once I saw the success of my actions, and I have definitely learned to get rid of the nerves at the onset. It’ll be a long time before that happens completely, though- it’s a process.
I also got to experience what it’s like to be working late…! I would say yay, but I wasn’t super excited to check that one off the bucket list. It was a long day – I started a project at the beginning of March, sent it to my manager for review, and hadn’t heard anything since. Then the project came back with an insane amount of comments and corrections – I know, I know. That’s how the review process works! But I had yet to experience this process, so I took every single comment incredibly personally and felt like I was the worst intern ever.
However, the comments weren’t personal. It took me some time to learn that, but when you’re working on a huge project with three years of tax returns and you get a PDF back with that many comments, it hurts. But I worked late and I’m happy to say 1) it was only until 9, and 2) it didn’t happen again. I later had a performance review for this stressful project, and it was surprisingly super positive. I was so happy to hear that I was doing a good job, because after so many corrective comments I felt that I wasn’t doing things very well around here, or that any efforts I had made went unnoticed.
Aside from the work commentary, the environment at my office was something I really appreciated. The people I worked with are hilarious and Austin is so quirky. I loved spending time with the people here, because it’s something so different from anything I’ve experienced in the past three years of college. I like the normalcy I found, with Casey and my Austin roommates and my UT friends and everything. Austin became my home and I had to leave it. This past summer I worked at a bakery in San Antonio, and that summer changed my life in many different ways. I really didn’t want to leave that environment; it was so hard to readjust once I had become part of that. Then in College Station, I finally began to feel a sense of true belonging when all my friends came for my 21st birthday and I was almost in tears because they were singing happy birthday to me and they were all there, surrounding me, smiling at me because they loved me. Wow, that was a big day. Then two weeks later, I shipped myself off to Dallas for training and then Austin for yet another chapter of this crazy life. I cried hugging my sisters at the airport, I started writing to note the stories of what I did at work, and instead it evolved into something so much bigger. I made friends with everyone in a real way, not just in a surface-level sense. I really feel like Austin is home now, but it’s not the only home. It’s one of three that I’ll be shuffling between for the next month and a half while I figure my life out, finish an online class, travel on family vacation, and celebrate important milestones in the lives of people I love.
And if all that doesn’t make you “feelsy,” maybe you just don’t know how attached I get to home. Home to me is the most beautiful sense of the word; home means people I love and it means comfort and happiness and being completely unguarded. Home is a place where I can let my walls down and just be myself and not worry about being judged or criticized. Every home has its quirks, to say the least – sometimes in Austin we don’t do the dishes, in College Station we had a few roach incidents, and in San Antonio one of the rooms in our house is constantly leaking in the corner when it rains a lot. But these things are beautiful in their own ways, and they (along with the people) make each place home. I am so lucky to have three homes, but it’s definitely a challenge. I want each one to be my primary home; I see a life I could and do lead in each place, and I struggle with that. Each city offers its own quirks and its own life pathway that I could head down, but until I get to the point where have to decide exactly which path to continue down, I think I’ll just let the wind blow me where it does.
So, how can I begin with the end? It’s a sad thing to realize, when your journey of sorts comes to a close. But it’s more about seasons of life; new things can’t begin if old things don’t end.
And now that I’ve spat out some life clichés, I’ll wrap up the way my semester in Austin ended. I finished my biggest projects, working on those babies up until the last possible day. I went home for Easter, and was quite literally checking my computer at home. We finished up filing, and while it felt awesome to be finishing up, I also I started to get emotional about the fact that everything was ending. Even though I had only worked at this office for two months, it had become another home (there’s that emotional buzzword again). The free lunches and free coffee were super nice, but I definitely will miss more than that.
On our last week, Monday we left the office early to head to College Station for a recruiting event which was such a blast! We had a cooking lesson, and I hung out with a lovely recruit. We wore cooking hats and made salad dressing, chicken parmesan, and whipped cream for our cheesecake. It was nice to be with work people, but also just to unplug and have a fun night being silly.
The next day we had our intern goodbye happy hour/party, which was great! Our last full day of “work” consisted of little work and mostly being super excited for the adventure that was the Goodnight (aka bowling and such). Everyone pretended it was such a hassle to drive there, or maybe they wouldn’t come, but guess what? Everyone came. And we had so much fun, bowling and eating and enjoying each other’s company for the last few hours we had it. I stayed a little later than the other interns because I just started getting so feelsy about leaving and I really didn’t want to. I ended up still going home earlier than I wish I had, because once I left the karaoke began! But it’s okay, I’ll just have to be sure I stick around for that one next time.
Wednesday Casey and I stopped at the office to give our computers back, said our official goodbyes, and then headed out to the Domain mall for our last day of adventures! And with that folks, you have it – my Austin experience ending but with promises for much more in the future. (Surprise, that means I got a job offer!)
If I had to pass wisdom on to future interns, or to anyone willing to listen, it would be:
- Stop worrying so much about your image. Literally just be yourself, and people will love you. Authenticity and kindness go a long way.
- Do your best, but don’t be so stressed about being perfect that you make yourself physically sick. It’s not worth it because…
- You will definitely make mistakes. So instead of kicking yourself for making them, just learn from it. Soak up all the criticism you can, and ensure that doesn’t happen next time.
- If your coworkers invite you to any experience outside of work, go for it! That’s how you’ll get to know people on a personal level.
So, there you have it. Home #3 is slowly going on a hiatus for the next year or so, but I’ll be back. Back for more taxation and more Austin adventures and more friends and more fun.