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, many Swatties participated in Career Service’s “extern” program that matches students to hosts, often alums or parents of students, who provide the student with an opportunity to experience a work environment for a week. The Gazette had the opportunity to interview several students who participated this year.
Lorenzo Ramirez, ‘10
The range of projects and work places varies widely. In Lorenzo Ramirez’ case, his externship involved one of the most unusual museums in Philadelphia, the Mutter Museum of The College of Physicians. During his externship, Ramirez followed the Director of Communication, helped “design a survey for a potential membership plan, and… sit in on various meetings.”
Ramirez’s advice to those considering the externship program is: “Have an open mind. Just because it’s not exactly what you think you want to do as a career, you’ll be surprised how much you can get out of it.” In his own case, Ramirez said the relation of the museum to “the study of science” made the experience valuable to him, “even though I was not working directly with the museum.”
He also observed how much he was able to gain from a single week: “I met a lot of different people at The College of Physicians. I also felt that I made a lot of important connections, and I learned so much in the little time I was there.”
Jamie Kendall ‘11
Jamie Kendall shadowed a lawyer for non-profit conservation trusts in Lambertville, New Jersey. Kendall had initially been interested in extern work related to child psychology, but she was pleased to shadow a real-estate lawyer, since “psychology is something I can explore at Swarthmore but there’s no law here.” The experience exposed her to the particulars of real estate law including tax maps, GIS photography, and the work of surveyors.
A highlight for Kendall was how welcoming her host was, providing a place to stay as well as bringing Kendall into her workspace. She also observed how her host understood Kendall’s position as someone who still had not settled on a career path. Kendall explains, “She knew that and she [herself] had done a lot of different things… a law degree is very versatilie.”
Nell Bang-Jensen ‘11
In reflecting on the externship process, Nell noted that one often does not have “a great sense going into it of what you’re doing—but I don’t think that is a weakness.” In her case, she worked at Communication Works, an organization specializing in public affairs for educational organizations.
Bang-Jensen described her activities as “a whole range of things from really boring jobs entering in excel sheets to a conference call with an animator designing a cartoon for a client… I was doing research, made a lot of phone calls and got to interact with their clients.”
The externship, based in DC, accepted four Swarthmore students in total this year; in addition to Bang-Jensen, Elisa Lopez ’11, Adrian Popa ’12, and Stephanie Rodriguez ’12 participated in the externship program. All four were offered summer internships, an offer that Bang-Jensen acknowledged she would certainly consider.
Logan Osgood-Jacobs ‘11
Also based in D.C., Logan Osgood-Jacobs worked with the National Peace Corps Association, a group specializing in advocacy work for the peace corps. Osgood-Jacobs shadowed Kevin Quigley, CEO of the organization and head of the Swarthmore alumni council.
The Association, separate from the Peace Corps, is closely associated to the degree that virtually everyone involved was a former volunteer. Osgood-Jacobs recalls, “The first question anyone asks you is ‘Where were you stationed?’”
The opportunity, which might seem like an unusual choice for an engineering major, was primarily selected out of curiosity, and gave Osgood-Jacobs a chance to see how a nonprofit is run.
Osgood-Jacobs was involved in a number of other activities as well. “I also edited a speech for a lecture at a college about Obama and the Peace Corps, I listened in on conference calls, participated in writing a grant proposal… a very wide range of things.”
Osgood-Jacobs also emphasized the unexpected elements of the externship: “I thought it would be very different than what it was,” though the experience was still a positive one. Her first day on the job involved an unexpected task: “I wrote mass rejection letters for jobs just filled.”
Elizabeth Crampton ‘09
When Elizabeth Crampton looks back at her first externship during her sophomore year, she acknowledges that the experience “was about what I didn’t want to do.” However, Crampton insists that like the externship she had this year, which was “a very positive experience,” her first externship was “very helpful in targeting a career field.”
Crampton’s externship followed an alumna working at Harvard’s Office of Sustainability, and over the course of the week she had the opportunity to learn about sustainability associated with Harvard real estate services, green living, administration, and at the faculty and staff levels.
The externship exposed Crampton to “the rhythms of that kind of work” and though it was her second choice on the externship list she found that “this was so incredibly perfect and such an exciting place to be” that she was extremely satisfied with the placement.
Both externship experiences gave Crampton a chance to develop her independence in a place “removed from Swat and from home,” and in both cases Crampton was very impressed by the attention and generosity of her hosts. Her advice to those considering an externship: “Look into the jobs that are there… and if you see something, even if it doesn’t seem perfect, take it anyway. If it does dovetail with your interests it can be so helpful.”