My Internship at the National Civic Art Society
Before coming to Wheaton, I wouldn’t have guessed that I would be majoring in art history and philosophy. I certainly didn’t imagine that I would be working as an intern at the National Civic Art Society, an arts organization close to some of the country’s most renowned art collections. Yet here I am, working this summer in the heart of Washington, D.C. Each week last semester I spent hours researching and applying for internships. I figured I would be rejected by most, but I assumed I would be accepted by at least one. I wholly overestimated myself. Professors, friends, and parents alike warned me that an internship would be difficult to land, but somehow I never considered the possibility that all of my meticulous research and carefully written applications would result in total rejection. I’m sure you can see where this is going: God clearly had different plans for my summer than I had. After a semester spent laboring and worrying over applications, my summer plans came together in less than a week thanks to a last-minute connection made by art professor Dr. Milliner, and I was headed to a position that was never on my radar.
Four weeks into the summer, I’ve learned that life as an intern is not all fun and games. The thing that adults call “work” can actually be hard. Before beginning my internship, I had grandiose visions of accomplishing great things at the organization I am working for, not expecting that I would spend most of my time doing small projects for others. I certainly hope I can still help further the vision of the organization this summer, in part through an assignment to develop themed tours of Washington’s art and architecture. But I am convinced that this internship, while ostensibly for the benefit of an arts organization, is actually about my own improvement. Those entry-level tasks I mentioned? They’re lengthening my attention span. I’m learning to assert myself and express my opinions. I’m appreciating that I have something to add. I'm also learning that, while I love art history and philosophy, I shouldn't limit myself to those disciplines. The skills I am developing in my studies can be applied to any type of endeavor. The world offers many more possibilities than I had imagined.
Until this summer I hadn’t fully realized the value of my education, and it is only now that I'm appreciating the usefulness of Wheaton's beloved ‘liberal arts degree.’ I love art and philosophy classes, but for now the real point isn't to become an expert in either field, but to learn how to think deeply, write clearly, and speak articulately. My experience this summer is contributing to these goals – but I’m learning in a work setting instead of a classroom.
Summer 2015 has been a challenge, but that challenge is rewarding, and exciting, and sometimes deliriously fun. Throughout the chaos of internship applications, rejection, acceptance, and moving to D.C., one theme has continually run through my mind: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” (Proverbs 16:9). I hope that wherever you are this summer, your vision of yourself and the world is being stretched; all the while knowing God is guiding your path.
Elise Topazian ’17 is a junior studying art history and philosophy. Visit online to learn more about Wheaton’s art programs and student internship opportunities, and share your summer work experiences on social media using the hashtag #MyWheaton.
Photo captions (from top): Elise with friends in D.C.; Elise in a National Civic Art Society gallery; Elise standing in front of a National Civic Art Society gallery.