By Ryan B. Harrison, UMBC Class of 2014 & Dana Guth and Tufts University Class of 2017
Aug 19, 2014 | 3:22 PM
It's a bizarre time for college kids. There's no longer a set path laid out for us. Gone are the days of the "get good grades, get into a credible university, get a job, and reap the rewards" narrative our parents cozied up to and preached so reverently in yesteryear.
Instead, we're stuck with a kind of wigged-out "meritocracy" on crack: Bust your ass in school, slave away at an unpaid internship (or four . . . or five . . .), wait some tables on the side (that $50K loan isn't going to pay itself off), and with an immense amount of luck, you too can have a shot at sweet success (maybe, depending on your standards). The conventional path has split off into a thousand different directions, each one more crooked and confusing than the last.
If this sounds overly cynical, it's only because we at Baltimore's Most Collegiate Alternative Weekly know the struggle better than anyone. In fact, this guide is brought to you entirely by a diligent army of unpaid interns, slaving away day in and day out over coffee-stained restaurant reviews and tangled phone cords and modems in our windowless hovel for the sake of what we're told is valuable life experience. To be fair, we are receiving legal payment for these services—our boss bought us pizza once, and who needs money when you can have College Credit, right? (And we do get paid for writing stories now—though not at the full rate of freelancers!)
Some might say these brands of slave labor internships are the scourge of our generation, a kind of looming, mocking reminder of today's merciless rat race that threatens to swallow us up when we graduate—and sometimes, those people are right. We are putting in more and, by conventional standards, getting less. No wonder we're plagued with so many negative stereotypes. But, in reality, we're the best yet. The "Intern Generation" is the most educated, the most ethnically diverse, and, yeah, forced to be the most competitive in an increasingly dire job market.
So, to cope, let's put a better spin on it. Without the promise of monetary compensation, working hard has paid off for us in other ways, ways that the baby boomers couldn't imagine. They see us as apathetic selfie-takers; we see ourselves as self-empowered and techno-fluent, a generation raised in recession with determination in our gene pool. We've inherited a slew of crises from those before us—from the economy to the environment, thanks mom and dad—as well as a few modern issues of our own—Tinder creeps, fraternity assaults, and rave ODs among them. But we've adapted with all the necessary traits to survive and combat. In our arsenal is unprecedented passion, individualism, a generation-wide entrepreneurial spirit.
Maybe we all still had to play the game and sell our soul to snag this internship. And sure, we wake up screaming in the middle of the night over terror dreams of un-fact-checked copy. But it's all okay because, for us interns, this is a labor of love, and that's the real beauty of being a student in 2014: With unlimited options, there are so many avenues and pathways to doing what you love. Working for City Paper is how we chose to get ahead, but also to push our limits and get to know Baltimore. As you'll read in the next few pages, there are a million and one ways to do just that no matter where your interests lie.
Here are ours. Every article in this section is written and edited by interns. Every photograph was taken and laid out by fellow intern and acting art director Audrey Gatewood, and illustrations were done by Kirsty Hambrick (an intern for Alex Fine), including the brilliant and beautiful cover. We hope you find something here, whether it be a new perspective, a glimpse into the collective conscious of the modern college student, or just a great dorm room snack.
And so we all say screw the traditional narrative. Stand up for yourself when your teachers and grandparents refer to you as part of a "lazy" generation, because we all know that's bullshit. Take a gap year, pay off your loans by taking off your clothes, major in Peace Studies, find your future local haunt, and do more for yourself than your school ever could. Take advantage of the choose-your-own-adventure age, lest it take advantage of you.