Off-campus opportunities provide students with semester-long internships
Students pursue career interests, gain experience
Published: Friday, September 14, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 14, 2012 12:09
Amidst a highly competitive job market, college students are increasingly relying on summer work experience — whether it’s an internship for a senator, humanitarian work at a NGO or hands-on training as an electrical engineer — to set themselves apart from the applicant pool.
With the advent of semester-long internships for academic credit, though, valuable work experience can be acquired throughout the academic year as well. Roughly 80 percent of Tufts engineering students participate in an at least one internship at some point in their four years here. For many, that internship spans a semester.
In fact, an increasing number of majors are now requiring their students to complete internships in order to graduate. Director of the Environmental Studies Program Colin Orians explained this component of the major.
“Environmental Studies is a pretty broad topic,” Orians said. “Students need to begin to focus on what their interests are. An important way to do that is to get connected with a corporation, a non-profit [or] a company that can provide them with hands-on experience and see how it is to work in those different [settings].”
Regardless, internships are often sought out for benefits beyond the fulfillment of a major requirement. Senior Ellie Caple maintains that she would have taken her position in the Press Office of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick even if such an internship was not required of her for the Peace and Justice Studies major.
Caple dreams of one day working on Capitol Hill, particularly in the field of communications, but her relevant experience was lacking.
“I’ve become increasingly interested in politics, [and] I thought it would be a good way to launch my experience in that world,” Caple said.
Other students share Caple’s view of the importance of internships, as well as Director of Career Services Jean Papalia, who voiced her support.
“We recommend that students do internships whenever they can,” Papalia told the Daily in an email. “Internships help students clarify their career interests while gaining invaluable experience before graduation.”
Senior Aparna Rahman elected to intern this semester with the Project on Justice in Times of Transition (PJTT), an organization that works to resolve conflict through dialogue among experienced leaders.
“I was still really interested in working for PJTT because I really appreciate the work that they do, and think that the concept they have is very unique and special,” she said. “I reached out to them and asked if they had availability for the fall. They did, and that’s how I got the job.”
Managing a semester-long internship alongside classes and coursework may seem daunting, but Rahman didn’t hesitate to attempt striking that balance.
“For me it’s no different [than] having a job during the school year, which I’ve done for the past two years — the time commitment is [almost] the same, about 10 hours a week,” Rahman said. “I think it’s pretty doable for me because working has been a part of my experience from the beginning, so it doesn’t seem like such a stretch.”
Senior Mark Rafferty, who is working at the Cambridge-based Conflict Dynamics International, an NGO that focuses on settling issues among and within nations and tending to the needs of those who have suffered from conflict, is continuing his internship from the summer into the fall semester.
“It’s kind of academic, similar to the research I would do here at school,” he said. “It’s a little more like writing policy memos, but it still has a very academic feel to it, and I love that.”
Rafferty also enjoys the internship because of the real responsibility he is given.
“One of the things I really like about this NGO is that they really value their interns as researchers, and there isn’t a hierarchy about who does administrative stuff and who does the research,” Rafferty said.
Rafferty is also well aware of the organizational skills that will be necessary to balance both classes and an internship that demands twelve hours per week.
“I definitely think it’s going to be difficult. I think it’s going to take a lot of careful planning and time management,” he said. “But my freshman year I was in such a good routine of doing my work during the day and hanging out with people at night and having fun, so I think I’m going to have to have go back to that routine this year. It’ll probably just be a matter of discipline.”
That discipline is likely to pay off. Papalia cited a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers stating that organizations reported converting 59 percent of their interns into full-time positions.
Orians agreed that internships can help lead to employment after graduation.
“The connections which are made during internships often lead to employment afterwards,” Orians said. “You kind of get networked in the system
I’ve had alumni come back who have graduated in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s who said [that] if they hadn’t done this internship, they never would have gotten their foot in the door for employment.”