Unlike most of my Fletcher classmates, I am doing my internship in Boston this summer. It’s just across the river and a couple of subway stops away from Fletcher, so it has been quite an easy adjustment for me. I am working at the State Department of Higher Education where I am exploring how new educational technology initiatives can help close achievement gaps in public higher education in Massachusetts. I was lucky to find a paid internship, as part of the Rappaport Institute Public Policy Summer Fellowship Program. (For the incoming students interested in Greater Boston and public policy, I would highly suggest visiting their website to learn more about the application process for the following summer.)
I discovered the fellowship by chance. The Office of Career Services (OCS) organized an information session in the fall which I (randomly) decided to attend. I really liked what I heard, so I followed up, kept in touch, went in for an informational interview, and submitted my application in mid-January (in fact, just before leaving for the Fletcher ski trip). I took a bit of a risk by not exploring other internship opportunities (not recommended!), though I knew that if my application were not selected, I would still have time to research other opportunities. By March 1, my application was accepted, and I could remove the “summer internship” item off my stress to-do list.
I started my internship a couple of weeks ago, and am still learning about the department’s work. Unlike perhaps some other internship positions, I was given the freedom to choose the work I would do over the summer. This has been both exciting and challenging. It’s great because I can tailor my learning and focus on my specific interests; the challenge is to remain exceptionally disciplined with my time and persistently take initiative. So far, so good — but I do admit that, occasionally, it is nice to simply be assigned a task with a deadline.
Nevertheless, what I have discovered with my summer internship is that this opportunity gives me and my classmates an additional network, on top of the expansive and tight-knit Fletcher network. I have already met many wonderful individuals, and am predicting some lasting professional relationships and friendships. As at Fletcher and elsewhere, the key is to get involved and be proactive, and take full advantage of the experience. While this has been great, I do miss my Fletcher classmates. Soon after the academic year’s end, you realize just how meaningful the Fletcher friendships really are. Luckily, there are a good number of us still in the Boston area, so it does not feel as secluded as it must feel for those interning in places such as Liberia or Nepal.
Another thing that I learned is that taking some time off between the academic year and a summer internship is helpful for sanity. Many of my Fletcher friends have done this: visiting family, going on short vacations and road trips, or simply staying put in the Boston area and reading fiction. (Fiction gains a whole new meaning in the life of a Fletcher student after two semesters of case studies). I personally was fortunate enough to visit Europe for two weeks, which was a welcome change of scenery. I would highly recommend taking your mind off anything school or work-related for at least a couple of weeks — your body and brain will be eternally grateful.
Finding a summer internship is a stressful activity for many Fletcher students, balanced as it is against a demanding academic schedule and a vibrant social environment filled with extracurricular activities — as well as many work and personal responsibilities. In the end, however, almost everyone finds exactly what s/he is looking for, and literally everyone finds something meaningful to do over the summer months. A couple of tips from my experience are to start the internship hunt early on (mid-fall semester), connect with Fletcher alums, use OCS resources, talk to your classmates, be persistent, and don’t stress too much.