Soc/Anthro Internship Panel 2010
Compiled by Miriam Brown, Soc/Anthro major, student worker and panel organizer
Thursday, April 17th, 2010
Ellyn Arevalo: worked with Human Trafficking unit of the Salvation Army, Washington D.C.
Jim Cahalan: worked with housing issues in Chicago.
Violet Thor: worked for the Center for Ethnic Studies and Development in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Mia Philip: worked in the King’s School in Quilon, India
Bryan Beaudoin: CEL Peer Advisor
Professor of Anthropology Tom Williamson: supervised students’ international internships
What Ellyn Arevalo, a Soc/Anthro and Psychology Major had to say:
She learned of the internship through friends of a sister who was living in Washington D.C. It was a beneficial experience because she learned how to apply what she had learned in her St. Olaf courses to situations in the real world. If she could have done something differently, she would have started looking for internships earlier and applied for St. Olaf scholarships and grant money so that she would not have had to live on peanut butter and crackers.
What Jim Cahalan had to say:
He participated in the Associated Colleges of the Midwest Urban Studies program in the fall, and through that participation obtained contacts for an internship in January. Jim was apprehensive the first day of his internship, for he was expected to work independently after having only the one-day experience of shadowing his boss, but he found his job of interviewing tenants of Chicago housing districts rewarding. He worked three days a week, and noted that employers are happy to accept interns because they offer free labor. He interviewed people who needed help; those who had landlord problems; or those with community issues. From this experience he learned how to talk to many different levels of people, and how to adjust his conversation style to suit their background.
What Violet Thor had to say:
She created this international internship through a connection she had made while on a study abroad trip to Thailand. She had met a Hmong researcher and emailed him while she was in the United States and inquired if she could intern with him. However, what she learned from this experience was how to be flexible; upon traveling to Thailand her purported duties as an intern were to translate documents and complement the professors’ research. Yet, upon her arrival, the university she was to work at was undergoing construction and she was forced to be flexible and find other opportunities. In the end, she found a rewarding internship teaching English in a village. She found lodgings with the host family she had stayed with during her study abroad program, which emphasizes the importance of making and maintaining connections.
What Mia Philip had to say:
Mia Philip did not plan on creating her particular international internship; instead, she stumbled upon it because she was home in Bangalore, India for family reasons, and found that she needed something to do. (Her grandmother was also insistent that she find work outside the house). For the first two weeks, Mia worked at CARA, a preschool for expatriate kids that was extremely competitive (as even five-year-olds take entrance exams). There she worked especially with two autistic boys. For the second two weeks of her internship she taught at an international school run by her aunt. There she taught reading and writing through the phonetic-based “letter lens” system and also directed the junior choir. Because of this internship experience, Mia learned that she wants to teach, and she advises all students that “we all have connections!” According to Mia, if you talk with people you know, things will open up.
What Professor Tom Williamson had to say:
Connections are super important for finding and establishing an internship: connections provided by the school (such as the CEL), and connections with family and people met through past experiences. He suggests that a student come up with an idea and then “go with it.” Internships provide opportunities for conversations and developing public speaking skills. When things go wrong during an internship, there are always other opportunities and valuable experience in learning “on the fly” is gained. Domestic and international internships also help you discover what types of occupations you find enjoyable and not enjoyable. It is a time to test out your interests and apply the material learned in the classroom.
What Bryan Beaudoin, CEL Peer Advisor, had to say:
Bryan emphasized the resources that St. Olaf offers, such as Ole Recruiting and the Ole Alumni Directory. Additionally, the entire internship application process is outlined on the CEL website. The website also has tools to help students assess and explore majors and careers. CEL peer advisors can assist in the construction of a resume, cover letter, and in obtaining scholarship funding for unpaid internships.
Question and Answer Session:
Q: When should I do an internship: interim, summer, or during a semester?
A; There are advantages to all three, although students should complete an internship early in their college career. Summer internships are nice because then the student can focus on the internship without being distracted by other school work. However, interim internships are a nice way to break up two long semesters.
Q; What are the advantages/disadvantages of doing an academic internship versus a non-academic one?
A: In completing an academic internship, the student then has the professors’ knowledge and experience as added resources. Professors can help students make the most of their experience. However, if the internship will count for academic credit, then tuition must be paid to the college. Thus, a non-academic internship has the advantage of being free.
Q: Is it essential to speak the language when performing an international internship?
A: According to the panelists, a student needs to speak more than one language by the time their college career is done, and it is very useful when completing an international internship. Knowing this, a student has the option of trying to incorporate into the internship time where he/she learns the language, or classes and courses can be taken before the internship.
Q; Should I be discouraged by the fact that an internship is unpaid?
A: No, use it as a bargaining chip—you are offering free labor so you can demand a flexible schedule and other benefits. Find other ways to make ends meet—for instance, Ellyn babysat, or you can receive money from the college or Soc/Anthro department. The experience of an internship: the resume-booster and the vocational information gained compensates for the lack of a salary.