Summer Internships Provide Inspiration for Students’ Futures

Summer vacation provides a welcome break for students from academics and the daily pattern of school. However, many students at Berkeley High School (BHS) and elsewhere choose to fill some of that time by taking on jobs and internships both locally and across the country in a va- riety of fields, from biology to botany to working with kids.

Particularly as college ad- missions have become more and more competitive in recent years, teenagers have started searching for activi- ties and extracurriculars to bolster their applications, and summer jobs are seen as opportune experiences. Even so, while some students may have originally applied or been excited to put the job on college applications, the experiences provided more excitement and insights than expected.

“Definitely I was thinking about college applications [when applying for the internship], but once I got in, I was more thinking about being excited to go to a new place and do something new, and I wasn’t thinking so much about how it would look good on college apps,” said Berkeley International High School (BIHS) senior Mia Stein, who had an internship this summer to learn about genetic research and study a genetic disease at Rockefeller University in New York City.

Academic Choice (AC) senior Leah Goodman, who had a job at the Tilden Regional Parks Botanic Garden, said that while thoughts about college didn’t influence her choice to take the job, what she learned helped her to determine what she plans to study in college. What she learned about plants, including pathology, physiology, and simply how to care for them, encouraged Goodman to consider plant biology and other aspects of the natural sciences as focuses in college. “Long story short, college didn’t influence me getting the job. In fact, the job influenced what I want to study in college,” Goodman said.

The ability for summer jobs to provide practical experience in different careers can be extremely valuable for many teenagers trying to picture what they want to do after high school.

Josephine Wallin, a BIHS senior, expressed similar sentiments to Goodman about her time as a camp counselor for young children at Cal Camps. Wallin said that she hadn’t considered many jobs working with children before this summer, as this was one of her first experiences doing so. “Obviously I’m not going to have a career as a camp counselor, but I do plan on returning next summer … I still don’t know what I want to do with my life but I wouldn’t rule out professions involving kids like teaching anymore,” said Wallin.

Aside from thoughts about the future or specific careers, internships also put teenagers in the position of experiencing different work environments. While this does mean learning skills specific to the field, it also means having to be on time, working with other employees or interns, or interacting with visitors and campers.

For some, this doesn’t provide much of a challenge. “It was so much fun working with young kids! They really keep you on your toes and it’s amazing to watch them learn and grow. Also, the other staff was so supportive and friendly that I was excited to wake up at 7 AM every day to come to camp,” said Wallin. Goodman said that she was able to learn a lot from other people she worked with, and developed more of her own skills in the field, such as identifying plants.

The ability for summer jobs to provide practical experience in different careers can be extremely valuable for many teenagers trying to picture what they want to do after high school.

“I’d say my job was all about learning. I learned a diversity of things [about plants]. I also learned how to use basic hand tools and of course, I gained other skills that any job would teach you, like punctuality, work ethic, and interacting with co-workers,” said Goodman.

She said that her interactions with the other visitors at the gardens were some of her favorite parts of the job. Goodman helped visitors to better understand the plants as well. But for some, these types of interactions, oftentimes with strangers, can be more difficult or move them out of their comfort zones.

Emma Lynch, a sophomore in BIHS, said that as an introvert, being a volunteer at the Lawrence Hall of Science helped her to be more confident in interacting with large groups of people, in addition to gaining more leadership skills.

Lynch added that the practice in scheduling and sticking to shifts was difficult, especially regarding fluctuating summer plans. “I often had things that would conflict with my shifts and I needed to learn how to prioritize work and committing to my shifts,” said Lynch.

Stepping into new fields, as many internships require, also can be hard simply because it can mean feeling unprepared or less capable than the regular employees who work there every day.

Stein said that she found it hard to be positive throughout her entire internship, especially since making mistakes was a common occurrence in the lab work she was doing. Even though mistakes were expected and she made sure to create backups for all the experiments, she said that it could still be scary, especially since she was working with experienced post doctorates.

Nonetheless, Stein said that she came out of the experience with a better, more positive view of lab work and research. She learned firsthand about how necessary and welcome collaboration is in lab environments, as well as the range of options available to do research and conduct studies.

“You come up with a lot of ideas about what it’s like to work in a lab or be a part of academia and going there was such a shock to see what it’s actually like,” said Stein. “My head of lab was an amazing woman and most people in my classes were girls and that was just kind of shocking,” she added.

From providing hands-on practice in different fields of work to helping teenagers to expand on their own abilities, summer jobs and internships can create lasting impacts on students and their plans for the future, beyond its spot on a college application.

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