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What can you do with your summer? With what seems like a menu of limitless options, making a decision about your summer plans can make a student feel both energized yet undecided. But there are questions to consider: are you vying for a taste of a profession or industry to see where your interests truly lie? Or perhaps you’re looking to gain valuable work experience to land your first job after graduation? Or maybe you envisioned a summer exploring a new culture or language in a study-abroad program?
Follow along as three LSA seniors share what they got up to last summer and how they went about narrowing down a plan. Get ready to “choose your own adventure.”
Teamwork makes the dreamwork
Writer and film student Ashley Morrow shares how an internship was what she needed to open her eyes to the opportunities available to her post-grad.
For Ashley Morrow, an internship was an opportunity to explore the industry that piqued her interest, but in an unfamiliar yet stimulating role.
Ashley is an LSA senior, double majoring in Psychology and Film, Television, & Media with a sub-major in Screenwriting. The industry she aspires to join? Entertainment—she’s “really been getting into screenwriting these days.”
So when she saw a position for Copywriting Intern on the Hub’s Opportunity Network, she was instantly intrigued.
“After being on Zoom for so long and then going into my senior year, I wanted an internship that would not only provide me with experience, but would offer me an opportunity to build my network,” Ashley explains. “As a senior, I was really aware that I would be looking for a job soon, so I was looking for an internship that would connect me to people in my field of interest. I wanted to establish relationships with industry professionals who could lend support to my journey, and hopefully find an organization where I might be interested in staying.”
Ashley found most of what she was looking for at Known, a “modern marketing agency” that represents organizations like Beyond Meat, HBO Max, JUST, and TikTok. But along with Known’s prestigious client list, Ashley was also struck by the company’s workplace environment.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Ashley affirms. “I worked on content that I couldn't even imagine. It was like, ‘wow, like I grew up like doing this or watching this and now I'm working on this account, I'm creating content for it.’ And I never felt any pressure due to my lack of copywriting experience, my supervisor was just incredible. He was helpful and always ready to answer questions, and that set a really positive tone so that the entire environment was very friendly, very welcoming.”
Ashley also found what she was looking for in terms of relationship building. Her supervisor still keeps in touch, and Ashley is intentional about maintaining her connections.
“I stay in touch with the people at Known,” Ashley affirms. “My former supervisor reaches out to me all the time, so we’ll talk at least once every two months. He's very eager to know what I'm doing after college, but he’s also considerate about me being a film student—he’s not pushing me to be at the company, but he’s a big part of why it’s a possibility.”
For right now, Ashley isn’t sure where she’ll end up post-grad. With Known, she discovered that her writing skills could be applied outside of screenwriting, but that doesn’t mean she’s ready to put aside her love for film.
“I really do enjoy the film industry, and I’m actually working with the film department at U-M to make a movie right now,” Ashley explains. “But I chose this internship because I really wanted to try out other facets of writing. And this whole experience was just so new to me, especially in regards to team dynamics. Film is a very collaborative art, but screenwriting is usually a very kind of individual experience. So copywriting everyday with my team at Known I was essentially in a writer’s room—and the collaboration felt amazing.”
Ashley thought about other ways of spending her final undergraduate summer—namely a study abroad—but she decided an internship was what she needed to get out of her comfort zone and open up new post-grad options.
“I was looking to gain professional experience,” Ashley affirms. “There's certainly a difference between being a student and going to class, versus being an intern and going to a job. I thought about studying abroad when things opened up last summer, but I was really looking for something that would enrich me professionally, and help me understand what to expect post-grad.”
“I could tell that the Hub coaches and advocates I worked with genuinely wanted me to succeed,” Ashley affirms. “And the Opportunity Network is a really great website, I wish more students knew about it. When I found my internship, I did my resume and interview prep using Hub materials, and then I sat down 1:1 with a Hub coach. It’s all optional, but they can sit down and talk with you, and find ways to help you secure your internship. And I thought that was just so incredible, because how many times has someone reached out to say, “hey, I want to help you.””
For students looking to push their boundaries, establish themselves professionally, and grow their networks, Ashley affirms the value of the internship experience.
“This is an experience you will carry with you,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to take the leap.”
Pre-med senior Elaina Baker offers advice on being intentional about how you spend your summer, with lessons she’s learned from reaching her own limits.
Elaina Baker is a pre-med senior double majoring in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience and Music. She volunteers at the hospital, is president of the Women’s Club Waterpolo team, and is currently writing an honor’s thesis. Early this year, she took the MCAT. For Elaina, the past four years have been a balancing act—to make it through she has had to be intentional about where and how she has dedicated her time and energy.
Over the past few summers at U-M, Elaina has studied abroad, taken classes, volunteered, worked, researched, and prepared for the MCAT. Whatever opportunity she has chosen to pursue, it was done purposefully.
“It started because I was pre-med, and there's not many opportunities in the internship world for pre-med students, unless you are double majoring in something else,” Elaina explains. “When you’re pre-med, you’re told you should spend your summers volunteering and doing research, so that was just where I started. And then after my second year, I decided to double major in music as well, and that constrained my class schedule a bit more.”
Elaina had a plan—she would front-load her pre-med classes to take the MCAT after her third year, and use her senior year to focus on her music degree.
“I think what I did really well is prioritize what mattered to me,” Elaina explains. “For myself and my mental health, I knew that it was really important for me to have a very light senior year, so I could focus on playing viola and recording a bunch of music, which I’m doing right now and am really excited about. I wanted to prioritize what felt like really vital experiences. So sometimes that means taking four classes in the summer which can suck at times, but for me it was like delayed gratification, and I’m being rewarded by having a lot of fun focusing on my music right now.”
But Elaina also cautions against front-loading, recognizing the burnout she has experienced from balancing a double major, preparing for the MCAT, and medical school application prep.
Alternatively, she recommends choosing one or two things to focus on during your summer, while giving yourself time to rest.
“I would focus on one or two things at a time,” Elaina affirms. “Especially if you’re pre-med, choose one or two parts of your med-school application that you feel could do with some strengthening and start with those. You can also look ahead and think about where you want to be in your third or senior year. Ask yourself, what do you want to be focusing on? And what do you need to do now to get there?”
Many students look to internships as the only way to gain professional experience, but Elaina also points to the value that can be found working in longer term volunteer or work positions. She notes the practical skills she’s gained but also the larger life lessons she’s learned, like when to let go.
“I started volunteering in the psychiatric emergency services during my second year, and I'm still there right now,” Elaina explains. “And I’ve gained a lot from this position, but it’s also critical to realize when you've gotten what you need out of an experience. You have to be able to say, “I don't think I can grow that much more here, and it's becoming like a stressor in my life rather than it being something that I’m continuing to learn from.” And that surprised me, but it’s important to realize when it's time to move on to something else.”
But regardless of your major or professional goals, Elaina emphasizes pursuing what excites you, while remaining intentional about where you’re dedicating your time.
“Find a way to make meaning out of your summer, whatever that means to you,” Elaina affirms. “I go to a senior home in Ann Arbor once a week and play viola for five residents who all have dementia. They probably don't remember me, but it's meaningful to me. So find whatever that opportunity is for you—what feels meaningful—and make the most of your summer.”
Trusting in the process
Research wasn’t LSA senior Evan Hall’s first choice—but hear where it's gotten him.
Evan Hall was ready for the summer. A high-performing student, he was eager to put his liberal arts education to work over the summer months, submitting applications to multiple internships, fellowships, and research labs.
But then the rejection letters came for the internships, one after the other, and Evan found himself having to navigate a series of “no’s.”
“I’m often described as a Type A personality,” Evan explains. “I’m really organized, really ambitious, I really want to succeed. So for me, the idea of being rejected from these prestigious internships and fellowships, I was just like, “oh wow I feel like my work isn't valued.””
On top of the rejections, Evan watched as his peers secured summer internship experiences.
“One of the things that scared me about summers is that it felt like you had to know what you were doing so early on,” Evan emphasizes. “But I didn't know what I was doing until literally the week of finals—at that point I had gotten rejected from all of my internships, and so I had to pivot and change my idea of what my summer was going to look like.”
Another added pressure? Finances. Near the end of the semester Evan was awarded what felt like two golden opportunities: HIV research in an on campus lab, and the prestigious Engelhardt Social Justice Fellowship. But without the program’s stipend to support him, he was forced to look for supplemental income to afford staying in Ann Arbor throughout the summer months.
“One of the things I love is organic chemistry,” Evan explains. “So I reached out to my favorite organic chemistry professor and I said “hey like I need some research this summer, I need some more income,” and he gladly accepted. So I worked in an organic chemistry research lab, found the supplemental income I needed, and really learned a lot throughout the process.”
Evan’s summer wasn’t what he had expected, but he encountered new projects and opportunities that really expanded the boundaries of his knowledge and learning.
“I ventured into opportunities that were completely unprecedented for me,” Evan affirms. “And my experiences last summer catalyzed what I'm doing today—and what I want to do in the future—as someone who writes about HIV, as someone who researches HIV in these different facets. I'm able to think about the communities I'm serving, and if I had been funded for the fellowship I would have never engaged with that opportunity, I would have done something completely different.”
Evan admits that initially he wasn’t even interested in research—after being tied down during pandemic research he was eager to do something more “hands on.” But ultimately research offered him the flexibility he needed: on top of the two labs he worked in, he taught on campus and wrote a long-form investigative journalism piece focused on reframing experiences of HIV for the Engelhardt Fellowship.
“The important aspect of thinking about summer opportunities is not to be scared if your plans are derailed,” Evan advises. “I know it can be an awful feeling at first, but get excited because that could mean that there are other opportunities just around the corner to make use of.”
But Evan also reminds students that passivity is not an answer. When one avenue didn’t offer him what he needed in terms of income, Evan took the initiative to reach out to his network, in this case a previous professor, and made another opportunity available.
“As an undergraduate, you have to really think about, “what am I passionate about? what are my goals?” and if things turn out differently, “what am I going to do? who am I going to be as an individual?”” Evan advises.
Evan’s take away piece of advice for students? “Do what you love.”
“It all worked out in the end,” Evan confirms. “This is where I say when plans derail, that's good—because of my work last summer, the Engelhardt Fellowship is fully funding me this summer just to do research. So I don't have to do anything else in the summer, I can live a wonderful stress-free life in that regard. That's super exciting to me, because I was following my passions, I was looking critically at what opportunities I had, and something wonderful came out of that. I was rewarded because I was doing the work that I found to be valuable for myself.”