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The search for something to do over the summer has been a rough one. As a freshman who wants to code but hasn’t done a ton of coding, it can be quite difficult to secure an opportunity from a company of interest. Nevertheless, last Monday, like many MIT students, I went to xFair to speak with dozens of representatives looking for potential summer interns.

Garnering any interest from these companies would be unlikely, but I thought I’d go anyway. I knew it would probably be like all my other attempts (the rejection emails assuring I was a motivated worker, the online applications that never received a response). I knew that these things are geared toward upperclassmen. Regardless, I convinced myself that maybe there was a chance someone would want me enough to offer me something.

Over IAP, I crafted my resumé, boasting about all the irrelevant things I accomplished in high school. The Sunday before, I went downstairs to my dorm’s Athena cluster and wasted the equivalent of three trees to prepare for the next day. I woke up early, put on some nice clothes, grabbed my collection of underwhelming resumes, and joined the massive sea that flowed into the Z-Center.

Everyone congregated in the front, so I went to the back. I thought that starting away from everyone else would give me a chance to differentiate myself. I proceeded to make my rounds, talking to each and every company that would provide me a chance to code. One by one, I asked more about them, seeing if they had any open spots for the summer. And almost every single one said the same thing: “We really only give internships to juniors and seniors,” or some variation that meant I wasn’t getting anywhere.

A lot of people may think that I wasted my time going. Obviously this fair wasn’t meant for me. It’s not like I’ve done enough meaningful things to deserve their attention, so why go?

But in the end, I did gain a lot through the experience. I may still be unemployed over the summer, but I have a much better idea of what is out there and what I can do down the road. When looking at the xFair booklet prior to the event, I couldn’t tell you anything about half of the companies on that list. Aside from big names like Facebook and Google, I felt pretty uninformed about the businesses there and their exact purposes.

By the end of the day, I had talked to data analysts, stock trading companies, robotics firms, and even a company responsible for accumulating sports statistics. I thought a lot of it was really cool, and free stuff is never a bad thing. And as for the industries and organizations that struck me as bland and dull, I now know where not to look later on.

Better yet, I was even informed of programs meant specifically for freshmen. Facebook University and the Capital One Summer Summit both could provide me with opportunities to grow and develop, even with my lack of prior experience. Even though I’m by no means guaranteed an opportunity, I had no idea they even existed before Monday. If luck goes my way and I do get into one of these programs, I’d be exposed to a terrific opportunity, definitely affirming that this was all worthwhile.

When people said I probably wasn’t going to be offered anything, they meant I wasn’t going to be offered anything. However, there’s value in exploring possibilities and getting in the habit of meeting people. When the spring career fair comes around in April, don’t hesitate to go if you’re a freshman or if you already have something lined up for the summer.

Maybe you’ll find a company you’ll want to research down the road. Maybe you’ll discover an emerging industry you didn’t even know existed. Maybe you’ll be like me and get rejected a hundred times. Either way, you’ll never know unless you go, right?

Zachary Collins is a member of the Class of 2019.