Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Over winter break, several Swarthmore students explored different career fields around the country through Career Service’s externship program. Externships pair current students with Swarthmore alums for a week to shadow and experience their work environment. The Daily Gazette spoke to Aleta Hong ’09, Michelle Liu ’11, and Finlay Logan ’08 about their externships.
Aleta Hong ’09
DG: What was your externship like?
Aleta Hong: For my externship I shadowed multiple doctors in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at UC San Francisco. I went on rounds with the residents and doctors every morning as they updated everyone about each patient. After rounds Dr. Peter Oishi, the alum who we were technically shadowing, would talk to us about what we saw. He’d answer questions or go into specific details about patients so we could understand what was going on. We’d look at x-rays or cat scans as well.
DG: What was the most exciting part of your externship?
AH: I don’t know if there was one specific thing, but for me, I’ve never really been in a hospital like that. It was really exciting to see what doctors do with their time. They get really tired, but at the same time they’re very dedicated.
DG: Is there anything that surprised you about working at the hospital?
AH: I can see how it would be really emotionally draining. I saw how the doctors are really dedicated from their jobs but sort of removed from it. They try not to get so attached because they want the patients to be able to leave as soon as possible.
DG: Do you see medicine as your career path?
AH: I have wanted to go into medicine for a long time, but I didn’t really know much about being a doctor or the process of becoming a doctor. Being able to follow doctors around as they did their work was really interesting. UCSF is a big teaching hospital so there’s a lot going on there. It was a great opportunity for me to ask questions to people in various stages of their medical careers.
DG: Sounds like you had a great time.
AH: I did, it was fun. I got to visit San Francisco for the first time and loved it.
Michelle Liu ‘11
DG: Tell me about your externship.
Michelle Liu: I worked at Connections newspaper outside Washington D.C. It was fun. I basically called up story articles that I was interested in or was assigned me. They made me do a story on Chinese New Years…it wasn’t bad. There was a festival going on in Northern Virginia.
DG: What was one of the stories that interested you?
ML: I talked to a lot of members of the Fairfax Virginia school board. It’s one of the of the best school systems in America and one of the richest counties in America. Basically they’re facing a budget crisis, and they seemed to be cutting lots of things that could be affecting minority students. What I was interested in were the underachieving minorities in the school system and how the school hasn’t really been doing anything about that gap.
DG: Did you get to finish your story?
ML: No, but it was interesting talking to the school board members. I learned more about school systems than I wanted to.
DG: What was an exciting part of your experience working for a newspaper in D.C.?
ML: The way that I got to work was an adventure every day. I had to walk a mile every day to the metro system, take the metro, take a bus, and walk to where I worked.
Considering I had never taken the D.C. transit system, it was kind of frightening.
DG: After this externship, what do you think about journalism as a career?
ML: I don’t think I would ever do local journalism, because that’s not interesting to me. But it seems like a lot of the foreign correspondent [jobs], that’s dying out as far as newspapers are concerned.
Finlay Logan ‘08
DG: Where was your externship?
Finlay Logan: In San Francisco, a place where I’d never been before, but have always wanted to visit. I was working at Parallax Press, which is a primarily a one-author press. They publish the works Thich Nhat Hahn; he’s a Vietnamese Buddhist master and a very popular teacher. They also publish assorted works on engaged Buddhism and spirituality.
DG: What was your role at Parallax?
FL: I did a little bit of everything. My two big tasks were editing a manuscript in progress, set for publication in the near future and building a database for their style guide and vocabulary.
DG: Do you see yourself having a career in publishing?
FL: I was interested in it less for the publishing aspect, than for the inter-religious dialogue aspect. I’m definitely thinking of going into religion or education and it was good having the experience of how a very focused group like Parallax markets itself to a wider audience.
DG: Is there anything that surprised you about the externship?
FL: On the ground it turns out that they’re a business, and that while they do have this very real and tangible spiritual aspect, they also think ‘How do we get a book out?’ and ‘How do we meet publishing deadlines?’ There are the two aspects of being a voice of religion while being a business.
DG: Is there anything else about your externship that you want to share?
FL: I would encourage anyone who’s thinking of doing an externship to do it. I’m a senior and I wish I had done it sooner. It’s really low pressure, it’s a week, and my host was really good about letting me see how everything in the business worked. I got to see a part of the country that I never would’ve gotten to, and be immersed in a possible career in a low-pressure environment.