by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
There are only three summers between the first year at Dickinson and graduation day, and each one brims with an opportunity for students to learn about themselves and their passions in new contexts, as they dip their toes in the professional world. And, as Career Center Associate Director Amity Fox ’04 notes, it’s OK to think outside of the box.
“One of the great things about the liberal-arts experience is that it doesn’t dictate your career—you have a lot of freedom, a good deal of choice,” says Fox. “Your internships don’t have to directly relate to your major.”
Four students who took that advice to heart recently joined Fox in the Biblio Café to discuss the diverse internship experiences that have helped them discover new options and approaches to their coursework and their professional lives ahead.
Mamadou Balde ’16 of Corona, N.Y., is a double major in economics and computer science and Posse scholar whose goal is to channel his studies in both majors into a career that helps improve society through technology. He interned at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission two summers ago and last summer secured an internship with Nickelodeon/Viacom.
As part of a business-operations team, Balde worked closely with several Nickelodeon divisions, as he helped set up a new database system and ran data-analysis reports.
“I worked with many different kinds of people—some who worked on the finance and legal sides, and some on the creative team. I had to make sure that I understood where they were coming from and that we were all on the same page,” Balde explains. “So I had a chance to use what I had learned in social-science classes as well as economics and computer science.”
He also discovered the value of on-the-job autonomy. “I learned that I work more creatively when I have less direction and can come up with my own ideas about how to solve a problem or do a task,” Balde says. “And the more experience I had, the more comfortable I became.”
Kathryn Henwood '15 spent the summer of 2013 in Malaysia, where she interned at a school for autistic children.
Kathryn Henwood ’15 of Long Valley, N.J., had envisioned a career in special education, and her 2013 internship with Autism Link—a school in Malaysia for special-needs children—gelled perfectly with her passion for education and her love of exploring international cultures.
As the school’s first intern, Henwood helped develop her own internship program in the weeks leading up to her trip.
“It turned out that I enjoyed the planning and organizing before the internship more than the internship itself, and that surprised me,” says Henwood, a psychology major with a minor in Italian. While studying in Italy last spring, she applied that self-knowledge to her summer-internship search and found a public-relations position at Hyland Global Solutions (London).
“I wouldn’t have known that I wanted to pursue [PR] if I hadn’t had that first internship experience,” she says. “I’m hoping that the contacts I’ve picked up [through both internships] will help me with the next steps.”
Brittany Livingston '15, on site at her internship with Harper's Bazaar.
Brittany Livingston ’15, a Reisterstown, Md., native, first interned at the University of Maryland Medical Center, an experience closely linked with her major in chemistry. Last summer, she changed it up with an editorial internship with Harper’s Bazaar.
“I went out on a limb,” she said, “and I knew that my background in chemistry put me at a slight disadvantage during the interview process, compared with the other interns, who mostly majored in English or fashion.”
Livingston practiced her interview techniques with Career Center staff, and the center connected her with an alumna who worked at Harper’s and could put in a good word. “Once I was on the job, my [science] background was a huge advantage, because I problem-solved differently than most of the other interns there,” she notes. “And because of my interest in health science, I pitched story ideas that were different from everyone else’s.”
She also discovered that creative pursuits, like developing story ideas or writing, call for a different approach than she might take in the lab. “In science, you become a very black-and-white thinker, and you have to keep checking to make sure you’re right,” says Livingston, who is now considering a career in health-science journalism. “What I learned is that [in nonscientific writing] I need to trust my instincts. And I was pleasantly surprised—I learned that I’m smarter than I thought.”
After interning in Hong Kong in 2012, Yang Yang '16 worked at a nonprofit film institute in California.
Yang Yang ’16 of Palo Alto, Calif., a double major in sociology and economics, began with an internship at a project-management group in Hong Kong during the summer after his sophomore year. This summer, he worked at Cinequest, a film institute in San Jose, Calif., using a student-internship scholarship to cover living expenses.
“At the film company, I helped develop marketing campaigns [that drew from what I learned in] Asian studies and social science classes,” says Yang, a film buff who learned about the opportunity from a family friend. “I also learned that while I always thought that I liked living in a smaller [suburban] area, I really liked working in the city.”
Based on that and on his love of movies, he plans to work in a bank or financial firm in the Los Angeles area, though his goals may evolve after his 2015 internship. And that, of course, is the point.
His advice to fellow students thinking about internships: “Start early. Right now I’m thinking about my internship next summer.”
Published October 8, 2014