August 10, 2016
Ken Chionh
The Rice Experience: An Intern's Perspective

Taking on an internship during what looks to be the final summer holiday I will ever have is, to me, a fairly logical decision to make. Somebody once told me that beginning professional life with academic accomplishments but no real-time work experience is akin to being handed a sword and told "okay, now go slay a dragon" - you'll survive for about two minutes, then be consumed by a lethal mix of your own blood, sweat and fear. Besides, what could I possibly do for a whole three months of break? Laze around? I've done enough of that during the school semester. 

I kid. 

The preciousness of the Rice Experience becomes obvious to me upon retrospectively considering the three months that have just passed, and realizing certain things. One: I've actually not dreaded waking up in the morning, quite the miracle since I've been told that I react to sunlight and the day like a vampire does. Two: The thought of ceasing the life I've had for the past three months makes me feel distinctly uncomfortable and nervous.   Before I ramble on (even more), here are a couple of things I've picked up, as an intern only just dipping his toes into the vast depths of Public Relations. While this is in no way an adequate summary of the culture I've been lucky enough to immerse in, these things have stuck, and I want to carry them with me as long as I can. 

1. Be a sponge.

Thank you, bosses, for clarifying that silly questions are better than no questions – and I asked a lot of the former. There is a brilliant mentorship system at Rice, but no human can possibly anticipate every single point of uncertainty that you may have, and it is definitely to your advantage to proactively clear these doubts up. When work is directly delivered to clients, and mistakes could have far-reaching consequences (welcome to real life!), then solving problems before they become problems is a smart way to make sure things don’t explode in your face. Besides, in this way you fast-track learning and personal growth, which is arguably the main point of an internship anyway. 

2. Everyone can teach you something.

While the nature of the job doesn’t necessarily allow you to work with every single person at the same degree, even the little moments of interaction can offer valuable insight into the sort of work ethic and skill you need to do well. I marvel at people’s efficiency and on-task mindsets, serenity under extreme pressure, as well as sheer commitment to making sure a piece of work is no less than flawless – and sometimes these characteristics appear in the same person too. Colleagues and mentors become excellent role models to follow, learn from and sometimes just stare and wonder: how on earth do you become this good at what you do?

3. Laugh a lot, live a lot

I can say with unwavering certainty that every part of the Rice Experience is unique and valuable. It’s not just about the countless aspects of PR, but also the small details. Moments like a quick stroll to grab a coffee boost, and you get to soak up the morning sunlight, chat with a colleague and enjoy a little bit of calmness in anticipation for the day ahead. Moments like a shared bout of laughter, where you realize, hey, we all laugh at the same things – we aren’t that different even if we come from all over the world. Moments like after-work drinks, where you unwind after a fulfilling week, and truly get to know someone beyond what they do at work. Human interaction is something I treasure, and Rice Communications has let me meet some of the most interesting, vivid and impactful people I’ve ever crossed paths with.

In the future, people will probably ask me “How did you spend your summer? What do you do in PR?” I’ll stop for a moment and think. Because it’s very difficult to summarize all these things in a sentence or two. I do know this though: the Rice Experience will pretty much impossible to replicate, and it will leave you really wanting more.