Extern Programextern \'ek-stern\ noun 1: a Swarthmore student who is invited to spend five days at the workplace of an alumnus/a in order to gain practical exposure to a career field that s/he is interested in exploring 2: where applicable, a student for whom an alumnus/a provides a welcoming place to stay during the period of their externship 3: a student through whom alumni can connect to the College; become acquainted with the thoughts of current undergraduates; and, occasionally, get a fresh perspective on their own work.
The Swarthmore Extern Program is a five day job-shadowing program designed to enable students to explore a particular field of interest. You can think of it as a mini-internship. The program always runs during the last week of the College's winter break, typically mid-January. Alumni serve as workplace sponsors, allowing students to visit them in their places of work to learn more about their careers. Alumni also volunteer to be homestay hosts, inviting students to stay in their homes during the externship. Some alumni choose to serve in both roles (and we love that!)
"If I Knew Then What I Know Now..."
Swarthmore students relate most effectively to the experiences of Swarthmore alumni. As an alumnus/a, you have a particular perspective: your career through a Swarthmore lens. Students appreciate the opportunity to see firsthand what alumni choose to do and how they do it. An externship can take many forms, with a student shadowing you or your colleagues in your day-to-day activities, conducting research and analysis, or completing short writing projects. However, a successful externship is not measured in accomplished tasks but in the level of exposure a student receives to your field of work; five days go by very quickly.
Be an Extern Sponsor
It's easy to be a successful extern sponsor: student externs want to learn about career options and life in the working world. Each of you has something to share. Your experience in and insight about your career field and workplace are very valuable. Think about what you do in your job. We all have many varied responsibilities and opportunities in different areas. We also have relationships with other individuals and organizations that will be of interest to Swarthmore students. Thinking broadly and precisely about what your work is like and describing it clearly on your registration form will help you plan a valuable externship and increase the likelihood that you will have a motivated, well-matched extern.
You can arrange many activities for an extern: externs "shadow" their sponsors and may work on a specific, but limited, project. Student externs do not expect to be paid. Although some clerical work is OK, it should not dominate the week. An extern is not required to spend the entire week with you. In fact, we encourage you to have the student spend time with your colleagues both in your organization and, if appropriate, at other similar organizations. You also can share an extern with another Swarthmore alumnus/a or colleague in the same field. Your extern may attend meetings or lunches with you and your colleagues; you may assign a short research project; or you may simply give the student background information on your career and organization. An afternoon off to sightsee for a student visiting your city for the first time is also appropriate and often appreciated.
We need homestay hosts, too!
Perhaps you wish to participate but cannot have a student in your workplace. We can use your help as well. Many students travel to different cities for the extern program. Since the students are not compensated, alumni homestays are an essential aspect of the program. Typically, the students arrive on the Sunday prior to extern week and stay for the full week. You can coordinate with your student how to manage mealtimes and travel details.
Nuts and Bolts
Alumni register to offer an externship and/or homestay through a secure website beginning in early September. Workplace sponsors who are matched with externs will be notified via email from Career Services by November. Upon being notified of the match, we encourage students and workplace sponsors to connect with one another to finalize details for the extern week. Homestay hosts will be notified of their matches by mid-November. Extern week will take place during January each year.