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'An internship connects you to your future'

By: Yvette Lisa Ndlovu,  A&S Communications
Tue, 09/25/2018

What is a semester in Washington D.C like? How does an internship shape your academic career? What are some strategies to use during your internship search?

These questions were answered Sept. 17 by a panel of students and faculty at “The Internship Experience: A Student Panel,” hosted by the Arts & Sciences Career Development Center.

The students on the panel — Christine Amenechi ‘19, Elizabeth Cha ‘19, Jacob May ‘19 and Xavier Salvador ’19 — have all been through the process of applying for internships or taken part in the Cornell in Washington program, which includes an internship.

The students were joined by Jason Rao, adjunct professor of global health, national security and diplomacy for Cornell in Washington and the director of Health Security Partners, who served as the senior policy advisor for global science engagement under President Obama. The panelists offered advice on a range of internship-related questions ranging from the search process to balancing work and classes.

Cornell in Washington offers a semester-long applied learning experience where students take Cornell courses and engage with the most pressing issues of the day through internships and community engagement in Washington D.C.

“An internship connects you to your future, whether it’s your future job or graduate school, so there is no one size fits all,” said Jennifer Maclaughlin, assistant dean and director of Arts & Sciences Career Development, who moderated the panel. “Different opportunities have different timelines; your application process is going to be unique.”

Cha, a global and public health sciences major who interned at Health Security Partners, chose to do Cornell in Washington instead of a study abroad program.

“My mentor said it would be an extremely valuable opportunity to do what is your career interest since I have the rest of my life to travel,” Cha said. “Doing an internship makes you more of a valuable applicant, having professional experience makes you stand out and CIW provided me with that opportunity.”

Amenechi, an economics major who interned at Goldman Sachs, said an internship helps students discover what they do – and don’t – want to do in their career.

“All my life I always wanted to do marketing,” she said. “After my first internship in marketing at a tech startup freshman year I realized I didn’t want to do marketing long term. So this internship experience made me re-evaluate what career I wanted and broadened the classes I took. I started taking business classes that weren’t just in marketing.”

Rao, who hires interns at Health Security Partners, offered advice from the perspective of an employer.

“Always follow your passions; do what makes you want to get out of bed in the morning,” he said. “My career was completely shaped by internships and fellowships. An internship is an environment where you can ask stupid questions and really learn, so I look for applicants with a drive to contribute.”

Yvette Lisa Ndlovu is a communications assistant for the College of Arts & Sciences.

Student panel in the front of a lecture hall