Students Explore Endless
Opportunities for Summer 2012
by Susan Clarey
Estafania Brambila '15 and Dilcia Mercedes '15 are both learning Arabic and looking for opportunities to study abroad.
"I'd like to experience what it's like to travel in an Arabic-speaking country," says Mercedes.
"I need to know what I'm going to do this summer," adds Brambila. "It's really helpful to have all of this information in one place."
That "one place" was Endless Opportunities, a summer activity expo sponsored by Career Services aimed at giving Swarthmore students a chance to learn about options for a meaningful summer experience in 2012. Held for the first time this year, the event introduced students to a multitude of possibilities ranging from research and internships to study abroad and service projects.
On hand to help students find the perfect fit were representatives from more than a dozen campus organizations, including the Lang Center for Social Responsibility, the Friends Historical Library, the Peace Collection, and various academic departments.
Why think about next summer this fall?
"We want students to be more fully aware, early on, about the opportunities available to them across campus," says Diane Anderson, associate dean of academic affairs and associate professor of educational studies. "There are lots of opportunities, and an event like this makes it easier for students to find out about them."
Because many internship application deadlines fall between November and March, students need to get an early start, says Career Services' Marissa Deitch, assistant director, public service and internships, who spearheaded the event. Endless Opportunities was also deliberately timed to occur during the academic advising period for the spring semester. "We encouraged advisors to ask their students the prompt question: 'Have you started thinking about your summer?"' Deitch says. "We thought that would encourage participation."
It almost certainly did. More than 275 students attended the event. Sam White '14 came away armed with information about summer grants in the humanities and social sciences. "It seems easier to find summer research in the hard sciences," he says. "I'm looking at the humanities, where opportunities are harder to find." Nate Cheek '15 is looking for something different from last year's summer job at a gym. "I'd like to do something more meaningful," he says. "I'm looking at social action opportunities."
Getting a head start on the summer makes sense in a climate where the job market is challenging and summer internships, research, and service can help build resumes to prepare for life after Swarthmore. Prospective employers regard these experiences as "absolutely crucial," Deitch says. "They help candidates new to the job market avoid the Catch-22 situation where employers ask for experience from students who are applying for entry-level positions."
Graduate schools also look favorably on undergraduate internship and research experience. "I think graduate school admissions officers evaluate candidates first and foremost on their academic potential as a scholar and researcher," Deitch says, "but any opportunity to demonstrate how you have applied your academic experience beyond the classroom works to your advantage."
Beyond these purely pragmatic considerations, summer experiences give students a chance to try different work and research options to see how well suited they are. "These summer internships and research opportunities can have a profound impact on the choices students make about courses of study and careers," Anderson says. "They help students make decisions about the future. They also introduce students to network-building and making connections that can be invaluable after Swarthmore."