Where does everyone go when campus empties out over the summer? To costume closets in the tip of the mitt, streams in the Lower Peninsula, scrap yards in Ghana, and hospitals in Morocco—all over the world, it turns out. Summer internships can tickle a student’s intellect, lead to personal growth, and let students try out a job or a field on their way to graduation.
But after the internship ends, how can students squeeze the most out of their summer experiences? For starters, don’t treat a finished internship as a checked-off item on an undergraduate to-do list, says Paula Wishart, Assistant Dean of Student Development and Career Initiatives in LSA’s new Opportunity Hub. She has succinct advice for how to pivot from a summer experience into an even more productive semester:
- Look back on the summer and decide what worked, what didn’t work, and what you learned. Equally important: Write those things down. “There’s so much to learn by analyzing what happened over the summer,” says Wishart. “What did you like about what you did? Who did you meet? Who should you follow up with?”
- Take action. Rather than filing away the experience, students should use it to help them decide what to do next. “Who are three people you’ll follow up with? What classes can you take?” Wishart says. “Use the next couple opportunities to continue developing the skills you got in the internship and position yourself for what you’d like to do.”
- Create future opportunities. Wishart urges students to connect with people, campus groups, and intriguing classes to continue building on their experience and finding potential career-related opportunities. “You don’t need to wait for a career fair or for something to pop up on a job board,” she says. Campus contacts and local activities can be equally valuable and enhance summer opportunities.
Here's how a handful of LSA students spent their summers:
Image courtesy of Fatima Haidar
LSA junior Fatima Haidar was thinking ahead when she interned at Moulay Youssef Hospital and Children’s Hospital in Rabat, Morocco. A pre-med student, she hopes to work someday with MSF (Doctors Without Borders) in the Middle East.
“A month in Morocco allowed me to develop a more sophisticated awareness of and appreciation for the differences between Arab countries,” she says. The experience inspired her to learn unfamiliar Arabic dialects, too.
“The other interns and I were always comforted by the sight of some English,” she says, “no matter how horribly translated.” A favorite example: a confusing sign that read, “Camping is prohibited and set on fire.”
As befits a future physician, Haidar’s most memorable lesson is also a word of advice: “If it didn’t come from a sealed bottle, don’t drink it.”
Image courtesy of Julianna Davidek
LSA senior Julianna Davidek interned at Moriumius, a renovated schoolhouse in rural Tohoku, Japan that functions as a retreat for adults and a camp for kids. Davidek’s work there was very hands-on. She guided the kids’ programs, helped in the kitchen, fed the animals (“The big pigs like kiwis,” she notes), worked in the garden, and cared for the inn’s bathhouses.
The internship was a tremendous opportunity to explore local festivals, practice speaking the language, and do something that reflects her personal values and her academic interests. “As an international studies major who focuses on comparative culture, I believe that supporting work that helps preserve and share culture is important for everyone involved,” she says.
Image courtesy of Anna Minnebo
Anna Minnebo, an LSA junior, interned at Mackinac State Historic Park, enjoying some of the most beautiful views in Michigan. She learned about park history, such as Fort Mackinac’s Revolutionary War-era construction, and notes that local Native American legends trace the footsteps of the first person to populate the Earth all the way back to Mackinac Island.
Minnebo hopes to work with the Mackinac State Historic Parks again after graduating. “I love the history of the region and what the parks do. This fall, I’ll be back in Colonial Michilimackinac for a few days to help with a Halloween event, and I plan to return next summer as a costumed interpreter on Mackinac Island. My internship has allowed me get my foot in the door and get more involved within the parks, something that I hope continues into my future.”
Image courtesy of Erin Eberhard
“The most memorable thing I learned from my time in the lab was to be inquisitive and not afraid to ask questions,” remembers Erin Eberhard (B.S. 2015), who spent some of her undergraduate summers in Rose Cory’s lab in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (EES) and Program in the Environment (PitE). Eberhard loved collecting water samples for lab work, which meant long walks along the Huron River under the summer sun and even through the winter snow.
“My time in the lab expanded my skills in aquatic biogeochemistry,” she says, which helped her realize she wanted to get a Ph.D. in freshwater ecology. But the biggest boon of her internship was having Cory as a mentor. “I’m so grateful for the mentorship that came from my experience as a research assistant. Without it, I wouldn’t have known about some of the opportunities that shaped the later years of my undergraduate education.”
Image courtesy of Jayson Toweh
In Ghana, Jayson Toweh (B.S. 2017) worked within the Coastal Ocean Environment Summer School, founded by EES and PitE Professor Brian Arbic. Toweh and another intern, Anne Canavati (A.B. 2016), studied the life cycle of electronic waste materials as an independent research project. The project took them to a scrap yard and into conversation with people working closely with the e-waste.
“We got to see it from all angles,” Toweh says. “For me, the best part of the research was getting to actually interact with all the stakeholders. We were able to meet with the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, a couple nonprofits, and the workers.”
Toweh and Canavati worked with EES and PitE Professor Adam Simon and others, including Arbic and several Ghanaians, to develop an interactive, web-based, environmental case study, which other students can use to understand the concept of e-waste and the challenges involved in recycling—or landfilling—electronics once the products reach their end of life. The case study joins other educational resources in a U-M Third Century Initiative called Michigan Sustainability Cases—an exploratory educational program that includes such case studies, podcasts, and interactive exercises.
This fall, Toweh will start a master’s program in public health. “When I went to Ghana, I had my own, big role. I felt like I could be a key piece in a global issue,” he says. “As an undergrad, you have a lot of power and ability. You’ve just got to harness it to get something done.”