Thursday, August 6, 2009

Internships, in Brief

The task: write one paragraph for the Nobel Laureate responsible for your summer employment expressing what you've gained from the time you spent on his dime. Can't say I succeeded, but dammit, at least I tried.

This summer began for me in Rome, where I spent five weeks doing a study-abroad program. In my course on the Italian economy, the professor spent one day talking about internships in Italy: there, internships are for college graduates and often last for up to two years. Essentially, they allow employers to test-drive employees by paying them almost nothing but giving them the duties of a regular employee. I bring this up because it is the opposite of everything I’ve experienced at ESI. This internship has been a chance for me to learn about myself as well as economics, and it’s helped me to develop intellectually in a way that my classes (at least in recent memory) had failed to do. George Mason University has a fine economics department, but many of the professors teach the same anarcho-capitalist story in their undergraduate courses. Our reading group here never bothered to debate politics; we were learning simply for the sake of gaining knowledge, and this was a welcome change. Outside of the reading group, the work I did replaying and analyzing experiments was much more interesting than I had expected. I have been a participant in experiments at GMU, in class and otherwise, but in my first attempt to design an experiment I failed to understand the experimenter’s perspective. Close examination of other experiments has helped me better understand how to begin when designing an experiment and has given me a glimpse of exactly what can go wrong – or right – once you bring subjects into the lab. Considering the knowledge I have gained about experiments, economic science, and especially the human mind, I can say this internship has been, for me, an experience of learning in the purest sense of the word.

1 comment:

Josh Knox said...

I learned a little bit too, thanks for letting me tag along.

Compared with the totality of knowledge which is continually utilized in the evolution of a dynamic civilization, the difference between the knowledge that the wisest and that which the most ignorant individual can deliberately employ is comparatively insignificant. ~Fredrich Hayek in The Constitution of Liberty