As an RUF intern, a skill that often becomes refined is the art of question asking. In order to care for and love college freshman well, it’s important to ask them questions. How’s your semester going so far; what’s your favorite class? Have you felt homesick; were you really involved in high school? What are you doing to rest; are you learning to navigate the freedom college allows? The list goes on. It becomes extensive and deep, so when roles are reversed and interns aren’t the ones doing the asking, but are rather the ones being asked, what do they say?
“How’s your semester going so far?” “Have you felt homesick?” “What are you doing to rest?”
The questions that we ask our students are often the very ones we don’t want to be asked ourselves—which makes them good questions. They require thought, introspection, honesty, and vulnerability. During my first semester at Penn State, I remember hoping that no one would ask me how I liked being an intern. Honestly, I wasn’t sure. I knew that I had positive feelings, and I also knew that I had negative feelings; I just wasn’t sure how to let them coexist. Flannery O Conner once said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” I feel like something similar could be said about October Intern Training.
Every year during the month of October, first through third year interns gather together for a time of rest, reconnection, and teaching. Walking into the lobby of the Westin Hotel feels like coming home. The Asian Poppy aroma overwhelms the senses as soon as the doors open. The concierge in the corner smiles and says, “Welcome!” To the right are the myriad of interns waiting to check in, eyes widening as they see familiar faces. It’s a reunion. Once again, we are united with 100+ other people that understand the job of an intern and can offer one of the most encouraging phrases in the English language, “me too.”
However, beyond the wonderful sense of community that October Intern Training offers is the reminder of the truest promise: God is at work. It’s a presupposition of RUF, and it is impossible not to see evidence of that while at training. Whether it’s your first year as an intern, or you’ve been around the block a time or two, sometimes the work on campus begs the question, “Where are you God?” The stories we hear as interns range from those bursting with joy to those buried in sorrow. The reality of our imperfection and failure to save ourselves (and our students) is heavy. At training we can admit that. We have the opportunity to laugh together, cry together, pray together, sing together… God is at work.
He is at work in the prearranged dinner groups that take place on the first night of training. He is at work in the sessions taught on Humility, Hope in Ministry, The Hard Work of Rest, Navigating Grief and Suffering, Apologetics, and many more. He is at work in the conversations had in hallways. He is at work in Prayer Groups.
Interns need October Training because we need to be reminded of the gospel. We need to spend time answering the hard questions and being mindful that Jesus is there in the midst of it all. With the chance to rest, reconnect, and sit under good teaching we are then able to return to campus with a rejuvenated perspective. We have the space to both ask and answer the hard questions while encouraging our students to do the same.