I did my first summer internship in San Francisco after my sophomore year of college. I was hired to work at Salesforce and placed in an apartment with two other interns, neither of whom had lived in San Francisco before, just like me. On our first night together, we decided we wanted to go to Pier 39…but this was before everyone had smartphones, so we took the first train we could find which was going in roughly the right direction, hoping that Pier 39 would present itself to us as we went. The train went underground and turned sharply, so we had no idea where we were when we got off and exited the subway station. But it was our first night in San Francisco, after all, so we didn’t let public transit troubles bring us down. We got out and walked around one neighborhood, into another, and finally past a huge plastic ice cream cone, jutting out from the side of an otherwise unremarkable building on a corner. There was a long line for the little shop, so we decided to stand in it and wait. I had no idea at the time that I was about to experience the most famous ice cream cone in all of San Francisco (from Bi-Rite ice cream), nor that we had just walked through the famous Castro district. It was too dark for me to notice Mission Dolores Park across the street, which is the cultural epicenter of the entire city. After all, I was just a college student, and all I knew about San Francisco was it had a place called Pier 39, which I failed to find that night.
Nine years later, my husband and I still love discovering and getting lost in San Francisco. But we’ve come to know more about the city and its culture, now that we’ve lived here for a while. It’s not all serendipitous train rides and ice cream cones. San Francisco does have a lot of amazing ice cream, and some killer burritos (Did you know Chipotle’s burritos are inspired by the burritos of the Mission District in SF?). But there is also homelessness, tension between tech companies and legacy businesses, flashy new apartment buildings and crammed SROs, and lots of people who live in their own little worlds, isolated from it all. There is little point in greeting those you pass while walking down the street, as phones and earbuds make it easy for people to avoid small talk and smiles.
So we started with us and a few friends hosting small dinners and events, things that made it easy for interns to build friendships with other interns and with SF locals who could give them a taste of what the city is really like. And now, four years later, The Real Intern SF is a network of many SF local volunteers from all walks of life and hundreds of summer interns who have come to our events to engage with San Francisco and make new friends. But it’s also a community…a family. Because we’re a community of people in a fight against loneliness, we find that the friendships mean something, and the friendships last.
Summer 2020, our fourth summer of The Real Intern SF, is upon us, but we all know there’s an elephant in the room: COVID-19. Many companies here in SF have already decided to make their internship programs into virtual experiences, so there are thousands of students who will work for San Francisco companies without stepping foot here. Many more are uncertain if they will even have internships at all, as the economy still struggles and many companies are in a tight spot. And on top this, those who do come here for summer internships may find San Francisco a rather difficult place to discover and explore. As it stands today, the train I took my first night here is temporarily shut down, so is the creamery. Going out is limited to exercise and essential errands, so you can’t go looking for Pier 39 on a whim.
So what is this summer going to be like for SF interns? We certainly don’t know, as it depends on when travel restrictions are lifted, and when companies begin operating normally again. But what we do know is that we’re here, and so are all of our SF local volunteers. And we also know that if there is ever a time to build community in order to kick loneliness and isolation in the pants, that time is now. So, our hope for each and every intern coming to San Francisco this summer is twofold: that you get to experience this beautiful, wonderful, complex, confusing city, and that you get to do this with some new friends.
If we’re able to run The Real Intern SF in the same way we did last year, we’ll continue having the intern supper club, hosting game nights, going on hikes together, and really doing anything else fun we can come up with! At the very least, we hope to offer rides from the airport and to/from stores, to keep you safer and to have you meet some news friends after arriving here in SF. We’ll certainly be doing something, and we hope you’ll connect with us if you are interning for an SF-based company so that we can tell you what we’re doing when we’ve figured it out. Also, please pass this post along to your friends who may be coming to San Francisco for internships, because when it comes to finding SF summer interns this year, we need all of the help we can get!
We wish you the best of luck in the remainder of this semester, and safe travels to wherever you are spending this summer. If you end up in San Francisco and you want to hang out with us at The Real Intern SF, you need only go to our website and fill in the form to subscribe to our email list, which we will use to announce both in-person events based in San Francisco and virtual events which you can join from anywhere. Or, you can follow us on Facebook, Insta, and Twitter.
Though there is a lot we don’t know, we do know that we look forward to meeting you, knowing you, and showing you what it’s like to call San Francisco “home”. Here’s to a great summer!
Natalie, Cory, Donut the dog, and all of The Real Intern SF