Students discover unexpected interests during externship week


At the end of winter break, many Swatties traded spending time with friends and sleeping in until noon for going to work and experiencing life as a nine to fiver by taking part in an externship over break.

According to Swarthmore Career services, “an externship is a ‘mini-internship’ or a one-week job-shadowing experience that offers a glimpse into a career.” Swatties are given an opportunity to see what it’s like to work in a particular career field and work with other professionals, as well as make contact and connections with alumni and friends of the college.

Jordan Reyes ’19 spent his externship week working at a online network called Bazaarvoice, a website that allows customers to leave online reviews and opinions on retailers and companies for others to view. Reyes’ time with the company wasn’t only spent shadowing employees. In fact, he spent much of his time working on code for the user interface of a website managed by Bazaarvoice, making small aesthetic improvements to the page.

Reyes said this was his first experience in coding, and that he mostly had to learn the language on his own. “If I had any questions they would help me, but for the most part I had to pick it up on my own,” Reyes said.

Reyes was initially interested in pursuing a medical externship, as he plans on following a pre-med track at Swarthmore, but was lotteried out of any externships that took place at hospitals that would allow him to shadow a doctor. “I don’t really like coding. I didn’t really want to do coding. I wanted to work in a hospital but there were too many people vying for that position so I didn’t get it,” Reyes said.

“I know some externships were only available to one student. Maybe the people hosting and working with these students could host more than one student to give more people an opportunity at an externship that they really want,” Reyes said.

Reyes said doing a Swat externship was still beneficial, even though he didn’t get the one he really wanted, as it allowed him to do something productive, and was relatively easy to set up. Reyes appreciated that the college organizes hosts for students with externships, but noted his disappointment that they didn’t cover travel expenses.

Jessica Malisa ’19 was able to secure one of the coveted medical externships, and spent her week shadowing a doctor at a hospital in Cleveland. She was hosted by a gastroenterologist and a cardiologist, shadowing them at the VA hospital and the clinic, respectively. “I basically got to follow around the doctors as they went on rounds and did procedures like endoscopies and catheterizations,” Malisa said.

Malisa was also able to spend some time in an academic setting during her externship. One of her hosts was also a medical school lecturer and taught a medical school seminar that Malisa was able to sit in on.

“My externship allowed me to see what being a doctor is like and deepened my interest to have a career in medicine,” Malisa said.

Elizabeth Curcio ’19 spent her externship working in analytics at the Anthropologie headquarters in Philadelphia, sorting through emails, dividing them into categories and typing the collected data into excel spreadsheets, occasionally interrupted by cross-department meetings. “These meetings were definitely the highlight of my time there, I met with groups from the home decor department, personal stylists, and marketing teams to figure out how to best advertise and increase customers and the amount they buy,” Curcio said.

Curcio said she was looking to get an externship in New York, where she lives, but was lotteried out of any in the city, so ended up taking one in Philly where she could commute from the dorms into work.

Curcio said the whole process of signing up and finding an externship was simple, although she had trouble figuring out what the externship would actually entail, as the Swarthmore job descriptions were very vague. “I really had no idea what I was doing when I signed up for this externship at Anthropologie, it ended up being a really good experience but I am not sure if I still would have signed up had I known what I would actually be doing,” Curcio said.

Although Curcio is not looking for a job in analytics, she said she gained useful insight into what working in a “modern” workspace is like. “[Anthropologie was] a workplace that allows people to dress however they want and is dog friendly, so kind of like what many people think of as the Google experience. It was very different from how I imagined the adult world of workers and showed me that not all workplaces look the same,” Curcio said.

Nancy Yuan ’19 worked at a philanthropic advisory firm called Arabella Advisors, doing research on different foundations, evaluating opportunities for the company and finding potential new clients and partnerships to build.

Yuan, a political science major, has had experience in the field of consulting, but had never worked at this level of the process. “Most of my past experience has been working with NGOs and government agencies, so it was very eye-opening for me since I hadn’t really looked into the for-profit sector that is involved with social impact. The externship really gave me insight into how a consulting firm is also an important part of the equation because they are the ones helping the NGOs and philanthropists decide where to grant the money and maximizing what the money can be used for,” Yuan said.

Yuan said her host was an integral part of having a good externship experience and forming meaningful relationships with young professionals and friends of Swarthmore. “My host especially made sure to connect me with people at the company who were fresh out of college and grad school so that way they can give me relevant career advice because they’ve also just started working and they know the new working climate, so that was really helpful,” Yuan said.

Yuan found the whole experience to be very beneficial, and valued the opportunity to get exposure to a professional environment as a first year. Yuan described the week as “transformative.” “Now there’s so much more that I am aiming for, seeing that this has broadened my view of how impact can be made,” Yuan said.

Her externship also emphasized the importance of a liberal arts education in the field of consulting. “So much of it is focused on critical thinking, analytical skills and writing skills, so for me that was great seeing the skills I’m learning at Swat being so applicable,” Yuan said.

For students looking to gain experience in a professional workplace, externships through Swat offer the perfect opportunity to do just so. Check the Career Services page or office in Parrish 135 to find out more about summer externships.


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