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International and Comparative Education
In the Department of International & Transcultural Studies
ICE Student Blog
Welcome to the ICE student blog. This is a compilation of student internship/job experiences from near and far as well as advice on how to find the right internship opportunity and make the most of it. Read on!
Volpe Fellowship for International Research – Internship Reflection
Thomas Novak - Nanubhai Education Foundation, Gujarat, India
This summer I spent two months in Gujarat, India working for an organization called the Nanubhai Education Foundation. The Nanubhai Education Foundation strives to provide college scholarships to Gujarati girls in a scalable and sustainable way. During my time working with the organization, I was able to perform various different tasks that helped me gain deeper insights into the workings of an international education non-governmental agency (NGO). Some of these tasks were to help interview the 2014 and 2015 scholars, organize the students biographical information, analyze both he interviews and biographical information for both monitoring and evaluation and marketing purposes, researching possible sources of funding, and researching if it is feasible for the organization to expand its program into a different Indian state.
The most pressing task during my few months with the organization was trying to interview as many scholars as possible. This portion of my internship was important because it gave me the opportunity to the meet the girls the Nanubhai Education Foundation was sending to college. The interviews usually took place either at the scholars’ houses or at their colleges, depending on where they were at the time we were going to be doing the interview. One thing interviewing definitely showed me was how complicated collecting monitoring and evaluation data in the field can become, even when you have a solid plan. Although the majority of the interviews were completed without complication, there were also quite a few instances where we had to improvise or interview the scholars in less than ideal situations. For instance, one problem I regularly encountered was that the scholar would tell us to meet them at closest bus terminal to her house, but when we arrived there found out that their house was still about an hour away from the terminal, so we would have to do the interview away from the scholar’s house or college. In the same vain, sometimes we would go an interview a girl at her house and find out that she was not going to classes that day in order to talk to us. Clearly, it was not the intention of the foundation to have the scholars it is helping send to college miss a day of classes in order to be interviewed. The interviews did provide many wonderful moments though, and allowed to meet the families of the scholars and see parts of rural India that I would never have gone to see otherwise.
Organizing and analyzing the biographical information for the foundation was also an important task for the organization I was asked to perform. Perhaps the most valuable part of this task was getting the chance to work for a long period of time with both the Program Director and Assistant Program Director. Both the Program Director and Assistant Program Director are Gujarati men from a scheduled tribe, and they both know the Nanubhai Education Foundations’ programming inside and out. The reason I needed their help was just to translate the information in the scholars’ files from Gujarati to English, but doing this mundane task with them added richness to the experience because they were able to provide insight into parts of the programming I had not thought of before. The biographical information I was looking at were things such as religion, caste, tribe, land ownership, parental education, parental occupation, parental income, college program, etc. Organizing and analyzing these data points with the two directors gave me a better sense of how the organization chooses the applicants they give scholarships to, the difficulties faced by an NGO in designing a program that helps economically disadvantaged girls from rural India, and how the biographical information reflects challenges the scholars face in their own life, for example how a family was economically hindered if it said that both parents are farmers but the family does not own any land. It also gave them time to explain to me in depth how the college selection process works in India and how one’s caste or tribe can be either an advantage or disadvantage when pursuing higher education.
I believe that my time as an intern for the Nanubhai Education Foundation was invaluable as a learning experience about international education development outside of the Teachers College classrooms. The experience gave me the opportunity to see first-hand the work of an international NGO, particularly focusing on the challenges of collecting and analyzing data that proves that the organization is providing an effective program to the population it hopes to serve.
Volpe Fellowship for International Research – Internship Reflection
Ji Liu - Center on Experimental Economics in Education at Shaanxi Normal University
I was fortunate this summer to return to the Center on Experimental Economics in Education (CEEE, the Chinese counterpart of Rural Education Action Project, Stanford University) at Shaanxi Normal University to continue my research on rural human capital and development. Education’s role in promoting rural education development is important for China, especially when more than half a billion Chinese reside in the countryside, and only 53% of workers at age 20 have gone through high school (Rozelle, 2015). As a key non-governmental institution conducting education program evaluation through randomized control trials (RCTs) in northwestern China, CEEE runs several studies simultaneously throughout the academic year. For the duration of the past summer, I worked on the on-going teacher incentive pay program.
The teacher incentive pay program at CEEE is designed as an attempt to evaluate the effectiveness of paying teachers based on performance. Since 2009, the government has made solid policy steps to raise education quality by increasing teacher salary, of which 30% was allocated towards performance payments. In reality, by 2012, only about half of the schools have implemented this government mandate of paying teachers for performance. Among those schools that implemented performance pay, most teachers are being evaluated based on teaching hours or simply graded by principals. Surveys of teacher salary slips also indicate that actual receipts of performance pay vary very little among teachers, which contradicts the purpose of motivating teachers (Loyalka, 2015). Based on these findings, CEEE designed an experiment to test three different designs of performance pay against a control group; the experiment involved over 240 teachers and over 8000 students and stretched over two academic years.
My particular role on this research internship was to conduct guided research through data analysis and on-site interviews to understand how teachers respond to incentive payment schemes. Traditionally, rationale for providing performance pay is to increase performance motivation (Niederle & Vesterlund, 2007), however, Lazear (2001) show that the total production output does not only depend on effort provision but also on the composition of the workforce, i.e., employees’ abilities, attitudes, and personalities. In behavior economics literature, it is also theorized that both market and social norms have an effect on performance payment (Heyman & Ariely, 2004), and when intrinsically motivated populations are rewarded through performance, market norms may crowd out social norms (Ariely, 2009). Drawing on these conclusions, I hypothesize that teachers with different characteristics and personality traits may feel differentially attracted to incentives and thus react differently, which would affect overall program effect of such schemes. Along this line of probing hypotheses, I set out to identify what baseline teacher characteristics would have an effect on the amount of endline teacher performance payouts. First, I conducted desk research and data analysis to identify these characteristics quantitatively. In addition, as complement for this analysis with rich qualitative data, I worked with a group of 3 researchers to visit village schools in northwestern Suide County, Shaanxi Province. We sat in classrooms, spoke with teachers about teaching and their career plans, and documented their teaching conditions. As I sat on the train heading back to the provincial seat, I began to recollect the significance of this past week’s work conducting in-school visits. In an age when spreadsheets and tables become the more common way of storytelling, it was only through these in-person visits that I really connected the real teachers and their stories with the data points in the Stata files. This made me think about the importance of presenting a holistic picture in my research, and help more people understand teachers’ actual conditions and challenges in the field.
Besides working on the teacher incentive project, I also attended the “International Conference on Human Capital and Economic Growth in China,” which was held on June 6th-7th in Xian City. The conference drew a large academic crowd as well as bringing together policy makers and NGO representatives. After the conference, I visited CEEE’s Early Childhood Education Centers (ECECs) in Danfeng County with government representatives from various provincial offices of the National Health and Family Planning Commission. The ECECs are built as part of the 2nd Phase of CEEE’s “Nourishing the Future Project,” which explores interventions that can alleviate and eliminate rural infant malnutrition, and aims to close the rural-urban child development gap through implementing interventions targeted at infant guardians. In the summer of 2014, I assisted the writing of a parental training curriculum, which covers five key components, Cognitive, Language, Motor, Infant Nutrition, and Social Emotional Skills units in 100 weekly lessons. This comprehensive early childhood training plan is being implemented both in households and at these newly built ECECs. Being in one of these centers and seeing the interaction between parents and their children is a truly a rewarding experience. For this important experience and productive summer I have had, I thank the Volpe Fellowship committee and ITS department on trusting and supporting me in my research endeavors.
Carmela and Marie F. Volpe Fellowship for International Service in Education - Nicaragua
Margaret Goll - MA in International Educational Development, Peace and Human Rights Education, May 2015.
My sincerest thank you for the opportunity to return to Nicaragua to work with students, parents, and the community of Jinotega on minimizing the use of children as laborers on the coffee plantations and in the coffee drying factories. During my time in Nicaragua, I partnered with Outreach360, an educational non-governmental organization that operates supplemental Learning Centers and learning camps in the poorest neighborhoods of Jinotega. Outreach360 frequently hosts international volunteers who serve as teachers in the Learning Center and learning camps. Having previously worked with the organization, I was familiar with the organizational structures, methodology, personnel, and vision, and so I was able to hit the ground running upon my arrival.
Prior to my arrival to Nicaragua, I had been in communication with Alma Fletes, the Outreach360 Program Director, about the summer program and the changes they were trying to implement. Typically, the Outreach360 Learning Center utilizes a formal English and Spanish curriculum with the 48 permanent students. However, because the summer program was being extended to students who were not enrolled in the permanent program and because the specific summer program was tailored to building life skills, I immediately began working with Ms. Fletes to help design the summer curriculum that teachers and volunteers would use for the additional 90 students that Outreach360 would serve.
Outreach360’s summer program was named Dare to Dream, and it was designed to strategically target those students in the German Pomares neighborhood of Jinotega who are most vulnerable to forced school dropout in order to enter the labor force. Additionally, the Dare to Dream program was intended to engender in the students an increased awareness of global citizenship and geography with a strong cross cultural component. The summer program consisted of a global travel program culminating in a fieldtrip to Managua to visit the airport, board a model airplane, and visit the Revolutionary Plaza and National Museum.
Upon enrollment in the summer program, Ms. Fletes, Maribel Chavarria, the permanent Spanish teacher at the Learning Center, and myself were able to speak with parents about attendance in the program. Although the coffee season does not begin until November, we wanted to set a precedent with the new students and their guardians that attendance was compulsory. In the permanent Learning Center, after Outreach360’s interventions with both students and parents over the last three years, at least seven of the students have since stopped participating in the harvest, ultimately remaining in class. Two of the prerequisites for enrollment in the Outreach360 program are that students have to regularly attend Outreach360 classes, and they have to regularly attend their public school classes. Because students and their families valued their participation in the program, many of the children were no longer removed from classes to work on the coffee plantations, and subsequently their attendance at their public schools improved. As Outreach360 hopes to begin the next wave of permanent enrollment within the year with the students who participated in the seasonal summer program and in an attempt to curtail many of the potential students being recruited to pick coffee, we wanted to establish early on that attendance was imperative. We are hopeful that once students are enrolled in the permanent program, their participation in the coffee picking will be reduced significantly.
During my time in Jinotega, Outreach360 was able to integrate awareness raising activities into local holidays and celebrations. Nicaragua celebrated Mother’s Day on May 30 so we were able to invite the mothers of the students in our permanent Learning Center to a celebration. The students prepared a presentation and then both Ms. Fletes and Ms. Chavarria used the opportunity to address the mothers about the Dare to Dream program and its aims. Because June was Children’s Month, we also spoke to the mothers about the rights of children and how going to school is one of those rights. Throughout June to celebrate Children’s Month with the students, we were able to host numerous special activities to promote an understanding of Children’s Rights. We held a session with the students where we discussed the concept of children’s rights and if going to school was one of those rights.
In order to promote and encourage an interest in different careers, Outreach360 hosted a Science Week where science teachers from the National Science Foundation presented multiple experiments for the students including the construction of rockets, kaleidoscopes, and periscopes.
In addition to working alongside the Program Staff to educate our students’ parents, develop the curriculum, and facilitate sessions on children’s rights, I was in charge of training volunteer teachers in the Nicaraguan education system, basic pedagogy, and classroom management as well as more extensive teacher training for those volunteers who would be serving for several months. I was present during all the classes and was able to serve as a trainer and co-teacher. Furthermore, I was charged with delivering a weekly Nicaraguan history lesson to volunteer teachers, facilitating discussions following the presentation of several documentaries, and translating from Spanish to English a coffee demonstration where a professional coffee cupper discussed the importance of coffee in northern Nicaragua and to the population of Jinotega. Ms. Fletes and I were also able to meet with several primary teachers in different public schools as well as several local organizations in Jinotega working on child labor including Club Infantil, Aldeas Infantiles Sos Nicaragua, and La Cuculmeca to better gauge the extent to which children in the German Pomares were engaged in the coffee harvest.
The most recent child labor survey by the ILO reported that in Nicaragua there are upwards of 240,000 child workers between ages five and seventeen. Because of the work of numerous stakeholders in northern Nicaragua, I am confident that there is an will continue to be progress in the reduction of children who are forcibly removed from school to work in the coffee sector.
International Rescue Committee in Nairobi, Kenya, Summer 2014
Anna Spector - MA in International Educational Development, Peace and Human Rights Education, May 2015.
This past summer I had the opportunity to intern with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Nairobi, Kenya. Five years ago the University of Nairobi (UoN) and the IRC established a partnership to create the first-ever masters program in Education in Emergencies (EiE). The focus of this partnership is to build humanitarian and educational expertise in east Africa. During my internship I provided support to the Director of the program with a number of projects, collaborated with UoN faculty on research, and worked with the UoN’s EiE Administrative Assistant to improve the EiE resource center at the UoN School of Education. I also had the opportunity to attend meetings with my supervisor where I met people from different organizations and discussed the work they are doing in the EiE sector in the region.
As part of my internship I attended a course, Social Innovation in Emergencies, at the Amani Institute (http://amaniinstitute.org) with six UoN masters students. The Amani Ins
titute aims to develop leaders in the field of social innovation and sustainable social change and prepare future leaders to address social challenges. Three of the UoN students were chosen to complete a project with Finn Church Aid (FCA) on language learning for Congolese children in Rwamwanja refugee settlement in western Uganda. The project focused on designing and implementing an after-school peer education program dedicated to promoting English language acquisition for French speaking Congolese refugee children.
With the support of the IRC, the Amani Institute, and Finn Church Aid I traveled for 14 hours on an overnight bus with the UoN students to Kampala, Uganda where we met with the Director of FCA to plan our trip to the settlement. The next day we drove five hours to the settlement where we tested the innovation project. While there we met with different organizations working in the settlement and interviewed Ugandan teachers and Congolese teaching assistants. After gaining a better understanding of the education system in the settlement we trained 14 Ugandan and Congolese peer educators and facilitated an after-school workshop with 96 primary school students. After reflecting on the project, I assisted the students in developing a presentation for their peers, professors from the UoN and other people working in the humanitarian sector. Even though we were only in Uganda for a short period of time it was a life changing experience for all of us and provided insight into how important education in emergencies really is.
Not only did my internship allow me to explore more of east Africa, but it also complemented my TC experience and helped me bridge the gap between theory and practice. After completing this internship and gaining first hand experience, I am confident that moving forward I want to work in the EiE field.
Institute of International Education, New York, USA, Summer 2014
Xiuxiu Yan - MA in International Educational Development, International Policy and Planning, May 2015
In June-August of 2014, I was fortunate enough to intern with IIE, which is an international non-profit organization founded in 1919, and is now the world leading agency in international education and exchange of ideas. With a global network, IIE manages fellowships and scholarships, conducts research on international student mobility, and provides public and private institutions with capacity building and leadership development programs at home and overseas. The well-known flagship program that IIE has been administering since 1946 is the Fulbright Program, which is sponsored by the United States Department of State and enables “students, scholars, teachers, and professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools worldwide” (IIE, 2014).
My job was to provide programmatic support to Foreign Fulbright Student Program and Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) Program under the Foreign Fulbright division in New York office. To be specific, I reviewed Fulbright grantees’ application materials, wrote bios for grantees from all world regions, maintained grantee database and updated placement and budget information accordingly, as well as collected grantee and supervisor surveys and performed statistical and qualitative analysis. I also participated in scholarship awardees selection, Fulbright FLTA summer orientation and conference preparation. Throughout the process, I have familiarized myself with international program management procedures and styles, learned about best practices for administering student exchange programs, and improved my analytical and organizational skills through various assignments.
Aside from routine jobs, I have gained even more enlightening insight from the online seminars, the brown bag series for interns, and the meeting and talks with people from other divisions. Learnings include non-profit organizations’ governance structure, finance system, international operations, communications, social media strategies and tactics, to name a few. The eight-week long internship is truly a rewarding experience, where I have learned so much on non-profit management and saw many aspects and possibilities of international education, which will definitely benefit my career development.
Nanubhai Education Foundation, India, Summer 2014
Kathleen Denny, MA International Educational Development, International Humanitarian Issues, May 2015
This past summer I spent 12 weeks living and working in rural India as the Research and Program Development Intern for the Nanubhai Education Foundation. I learned about this position from classmates who were former Nanubhai interns.
The Nanubhai Education Foundation seeks to give girls the ability to determine their own futures without being constrained by their social, cultural and economic circumstances. Nanubhai is committed to preparing and empowering girls in rural India to pursue post-secondary education through a scholarship and mentorship program, thus leading to greater financial security for themselves and their families upon graduation.
My main responsibilities as an intern included creating a needs assessment for program expansion into the state of Rajasthan and designing a monitoring and evaluation plan for the 2014-2015 school year. As an intern I was given a lot of freedom to complete research and projects on my own. I completed research for my Integrative Project on teacher education institutions within India and conducted classroom observations in various schools. Overall, the internship gave me the unique opportunity to put what I have learned at Teachers College into practice and to work for a grassroots organization at the community level. It also confirmed my interest in working towards education quality instead of access. Although I enjoyed the program development aspect of my internship, I was not especially passionate about the project itself. To make the most out of my experience I focused on gaining as much practical skill as possible.
Based on my experience, I have two pieces of advice for students planning to complete internships abroad: Know what you are getting yourself into and plan your research before you leave. Although I am thankful for my experience, there are things I would have liked to know before arriving in India. I based most of my expectations on what the website and job description said, but reality proved to be very different. When you are interviewing try to get a good understanding of what your roles and responsibilities will include throughout your internship. Consider asking, “What does the day in the life of an intern look like?” Planning meaningful research takes a great deal of time and resources that might not be available to you once you are abroad. Access to a computer, printing and Internet service could be limited or unreliable. Ideally, you should have your research proposal and data collection tools completed before you leave. Obviously, living and working in a developing context requires flexibility and resolve, but if you are going to make the financial commitment to travel and live abroad, you want to make sure that you will be able to get the most out of your internship experience.
Save the Children, Indonesia, Summer 2014
MeiYee Chew, MA in International Policy and Planning, Fall 2014 (Feb 2015)
Between June and August 2014, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel with Save the Children (SC) to the eastern region of Indonesia as a Save-University Partnership in Education Research (SUPER) Fellow. As one of the largest development agencies in the world, SC supports various programs for children in the sectors of education, health, and nutrition. This opportunity came to me through a professor, which showed me the importance of continually seeking to build relationships with those around us.
As a SUPER fellow, my responsibility was to assist the Strengthening Education Through Awareness and Achievement (SETARA) project on a research study that compared the school readiness skills of students who attended early childhood development (ECD) centers (target) to those who did not (control). Given that the SETARA project had supported 20 ECD centers over the last three years, the study was seen as an important component that would inform various stakeholders about the effectiveness and impact of the project. The crucial role that the results would play in the larger scope of the program allowed me to see the high value of evaluation studies and that care had to be taken to ensure the study was valid and reliable. Consequently, my involvement throughout the whole process, which included designing assessment plans, organizing the assessment schedule, training enumerators, implementing data collection, and analyzing data, allowed me to refine the various skills needed to conduct an evaluation.
This invaluable experience also allowed me to apply the skills I had learned at Teachers College, such asstrategic planning, research methods, and technical writing. If I am truly honest, I was rather concerned about the scope of work being slightly above my skillsets, but once I was there, the support that I received from both local and international staff reassured me that this would be an opportunity to build on my strengths and weaknesses. Consequently, building strong relationships with my co-workers was crucial in helping me succeed, as we relied on each other to complete the study successfully. With everyone’s cooperation, we were able to collect data from 148 target students and 83 control students and the data analysis produced very positive results. As seen in the Figure, the target group students performed, on average, 20% better overall. Furthermore, two-tailed T-Tests between the target and control groups showed significant differences in all domains, providing us the confidence that these differences exist in the larger population and that ECD matters for better school readiness!
Even though this internship was not paid, the organization covered for all my travel and living expenses and the experiences I had far outweighed the cost of working for “free.” Additionally, being in the field and involved throughout the monitoring and evaluation process helped me discover my true interests in the vast field of international development. While there is still much to learn, I realized that being in the field, away from your family and the comforts of life, can be difficult, but the positive impact that it makes on the community is one of many fulfilling reasons why countless people choose to do so. Consequently, this experience has solidified my interest in pursuing a career in international education and I truly look forward to what the next phase of life will bring!
Institute for International Education, New York, USA, Summer 2014
Mary Lynn Woods - MA, Higher Education, Fall 2014 (Feb 2015).
It wasn’t long after orientation and my first day of classes that I learned that the Institute of International Education (IIE) is a real place and that I wanted an internship there. My interests are centered on student mobility and study abroad based on an ingrained belief that improved cross-cultural understanding makes for critical thinkers and an enriched community – both locally and globally. My career background is rooted in communications, so I redirected sharply when I began my studies at Teachers College in the field of international education. I started out on a steep learning curve, but it did not take long to recognize a trend: IIE reports appeared frequently in my research. Its vision “to foster a peaceful and interconnected world” through access and opportunity inspired my scholarly pursuits, and I knew I wanted to intern there.
A few of my colleagues at Teachers College were already in the midst of internships with IIE, so I started by meeting for coffee and picking the brains of those who had already been through the application process. I made it a weekly practice to scour the IIE website for internship opportunities. Aside from a mission statement that lit up the passion sensors in my brain, I had practical reasons to pursue an internship at IIE. First, I wanted to gain hands-on experience in the field from the perspective of a large, non-profit organization. And second, adding IIE to my resume would make me a more attractive job candidate down the road.
Just before the end of the spring semester, an opportunity for an internship appeared on the IIE human resources page that seemed like a perfect fit. The position was a ten-week, paid internship to develop social media strategy recommendations for the Global Scholarship Programs division. The job description was a blend of my career experience in communications and my current studies in international education. I applied as soon as I saw the posting.
During my summer internship, I was fascinated to learn about international education in such an impassioned environment. My first weeks were spent doing background research so I could discern the lay of the land regarding social media presence in the field. I researched online, but most useful were the interviews I conducted with the program managers in the office. They spoke about the scholarship programs and the students with personal investment. In one interview, I closed by saying that the work seemed so rewarding, to which the project manager responded that it is indeed rewarding to be a part of bringing about world peace. After that, if there was something in the water there, I definitely drank it.
The experience afforded me new, practical skills through my research on communications and social media in international education. Those skills have helped me carve out a niche to define the scope of my career search. But my favorite takeaways from the internship are: a deepened passion for international education, hands-on experience within the leading institution in the field, and working alongside brilliant and inspired people who have the audacity to aim for world peace.
INEE, One To World and IIE, New York, USA, Fall 2013 to Fall 2014
Bryce Loo, M.A., International Policy & Planning and Higher Education, February 2015
While working on a Master’s degree in the International Education Development at Teachers College, I supplemented my coursework with a healthy dose of internships within the field. During the fall semester of 2013, my first semester in the ICE program, I worked as a Communications and Knowledge Management Intern for the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE). I managed their four main social network sites and some of their web content, including the newsfeed, blog, and calendar of events. The experience allowed me to gain some valuable insights into in developing and managing web presence for an NGO with a worldwide audience. And, while it was unpaid, I worked remotely, meaning I worked from home, often in my pajamas! In spring 2014, I interned with One To World, a small non-profit organization in Manhattan that provides cultural programming for international students and scholars and services to international student officers at most of New York’s higher education institutions. Along with two other students in the ICE program, I worked with a consultant to research and develop an intercultural competency workshop for university faculty and staff who increasingly work more and more with students from many different countries. We piloted the program, with each of us serving as a co-facilitator in May to a group of faculty and staff from Fordham University and several international student officers from around the New York City area. One To World asked me to come back in the fall (2014) to continue working with them, including with their university memberships and organization sponsors. I have continued to serve as a paid co-facilitator for the workshop on occasion at various colleges and universities throughout the area. Working with One To World has helped me transition into international higher education and build a network of professionals in the field.
Over the summer, I decided to return home to California. I used the time there to my advantage and contacted the director of the Office of International Students and Programs at California State University, Bakersfield, my undergraduate alma mater. I turned that contact into an internship with this office, where I was able to learn more about advising international students, including in the dreaded area of visa regulations. I also helped the office in developing a communications strategy and research programs at other universities. It was a win-win situation for both of us.
And most recently, I have been interning in the Research and Evaluation Division at the Institute of International Education (IIE), which focuses on international higher education. I was able to learn a lot about quantitative research methods and work on a major annual report, Open Doors, which reports the number of international students in the U.S. and American students studying abroad. I was even put in a charge of a major survey, which I took the lead on from beginning to end, a useful process to know.
From all these internships, plus two paid jobs as research assistants with professors at TC, I was able to gain valuable skills and experience that complement the coursework I have taken at TC. And just as importantly, I made invaluable connections with people, both mentors and professional contacts.
Through all of these experiences, I offer a few pieces of advice, especially to students just beginning in the program:
· While not everyone has the option, don’t be afraid to apply for and take on an unpaid internship, as revolting as it sounds to work for no pay. They are a great way to get started in the field, particularly if you have less professional experience. Paid internships are harder to find and competitive to get (though you should try if relevant!). And, often because they are unpaid, many organizations will take you on despite having little or no experience. You can build necessary skills and experience and begin networking within the field.
· If you have a restrictive schedule, consider a remote internship, which means you generally get to work from home (or wherever) and based on your own schedule, so long as you get the work done. The drawback is it is much harder to network, but you gain the skills and experience despite having a crazy schedule!
· Look up job descriptions of the type of job (or jobs) in which you are interested after graduation and find what type of skills and experience those organizations are looking for. Then, find an internship where you can gain that set of skills and experience if you do not have them already, even if not with an organization directly in your line of work.
· Find a mentor, someone who will take the time to advise you, teach you, advocate for you, and speak well of you within the field.
· Make connections and utilize them! Networking is often not easy but truly invaluable. Professional contacts are very likely the way you will land a job.
· Get business cards made across the street at the Print Center at the Columbia School of Journalism, if you don’t have up-to-date ones already, and have them on hand. Give them out to your new connections and collect theirs!