The Ups and Downs of a D.C. Internship

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding grant.  We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending the summer.  You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Zahra Mion, COL ’16

minonMy summer internship experience has definitely been a rollercoaster ride. Though I knew I wanted to work in politics, it had taken me much longer than expected to reconcile myself to the idea. All my closest friends were spending the summer in New York; I was  living more than two hour train ride away from my family and hometown friends; and I would be living by myself in a city I had only visited and knew no one in. But at the same time, I had gotten my dream internship — working for the Commission on Civil Rights. I always knew that I wanted to somehow combine my passion for civil rights, politics, the law and social change but never really wanted to be a politician, considered law school but was terrified by the idea and could not envision working on less than 30,000$ a year for a non-profit type organization. So the Commission seemed perfect to me.

Of course I knew I wouldn’t be writing reports for Congress or the President as an intern, but even with that understanding my experience was not at all what I was expecting. To put it simply, it was a lot like learning how sausage is made. I never truly understood just how huge our government is, and how much red tape there is until I got my first assignment. It seemed pretty straight forward: research each state’s Equal Employment Policy, paying specific attention for mention of transgender or gender identity language. I expected all the states to have similar policies, mostly because when I think of Equal Employment one specific definition comes to mind. However, after digging and digging to even find the actual policy of states, the range of language was unbelievable— there were some states that didn’t publish their policy, others that only mentioned equal employment with consideration to race, class and gender, and still others that included things like genetic history.

Eventually, my tasks got a little more substantive and I was assigned to analyze the federal governments compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) for an upcoming report on immigrant detention facilities. Again, I had a bit of an eye-opening experience. When I asked my supervisor what sources I should be relying on, I was told to use anything. Now, perhaps it was me being naive about how DC runs but I was shocked. I hardly use EBSCO in my research papers (I’m much more of a JSTOR person), so having free range for a government mandated assignment seemed wrong to me. When I found myself on a white supremacist site, I obviously used my common sense and did not quote the website, but for some reason the casualness of the task shocked me. One of the things I liked most about my internship was how much I learned through my research. Sure, every now and then I would find myself on a white supremacist site or somehow reading about how the illuminati was really running the government, but for the most part I was reading reports from the ACLU, DOJ, MALDEF, HRC and other civil rights groups. Not only was I able to greatly increase my knowledge of immigration issues, but I also found a lot of organizations that I would love to work for in the future.

On more than one occasion, my intern friends and I went to the Hill to watch Senate hearings (one of the many perks of living in DC). Again, I experienced the paradox of Washington—somehow very casual and very serious at the same time. I was sitting behind Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, her body guards were seated on one side of me and I could see the CSPAN camera panning to the area I was in. I finally felt like I was in Washington, DC. And then a senator’s phone went off. Not only did the phone go off, but it was answered! To top it all off, after that interruption of casualty, the room was cleared due to a bomb threat.

One of the most exciting times of my internship was when I got to sit in on a Commission briefing on minorities in higher education. The hearing was far from boring, especially since such a contentious issue was under discussion. It was exiting to just be a part of the briefing. One of the Commissioners even asked the interns if we had any questions we wanted to ask. I submitted a few, but not surprisingly none of them made it. I preferred the Commission hearing to the Senate hearing, mostly because I think there was less politics involved. It seemed like the Commissioners, regardless of their own political affiliation, were looking for tangible solutions to the problems at hand, while at the Senate hearing it seemed liked everyone was concerned with confirming that their political ideologies were being implemented.

Overall, I definitely enjoyed my summer internship. I met amazing people who were equally as politically and socially active as I was. I was reassured in my ultimate career path, and I’m certain that I’ll be able to find a place in Washington where it feels like I’m doing substantive work while also making a difference.

By The Book: Late Summer Reading

by J. Michael DeAngelis, Information Resources Manager

The summer brings not only a little bit of downtime to the always busy Career Services office, but also marks the start of a new fiscal year! With the budget refreshed, let’s take a look at some of the latest editions to the Career Services library.

filmschoolFilm School: The True Story of a Midwestern Man Who Went to the World’s Most Famous Film School, Fell Flat on His Face, Had a Stroke and Sold a Television Series to CBS by Steve BowmanFrom the publisher: Steve Boman was just your average middle-aged ex-newspaper reporter and stay-at-home dad when he applied to be a student at the University of Southern California’s vaunted School of Cinematic Arts.  Boman didn’t know what would await him at the world’s oldest and most prestigious film school, a place that has trained Hollywood heavyweights George Lucas, John Carpenter, James Ivory, Judd Apatow, Brian Grazer, Shonda Rhimes, John Singleton, Jay Roach, Conrad Hall, and many others. In this rollicking, thoughtful, and unexpectedly touching tale, Boman shows what life is like behind the scenes at Hollywood’s pre-eminent boot camp… and what it’s like to do the almost unthinkable–sell a primetime television show while still in school.

profisinThe Professor is In: The Essential Guide to Turning Your Ph.D. into a Job by Karen Kelsky, Ph.D.  From the Publisher:  Each year tens of thousands of students will, after years of hard work and enormous amounts of money, earn their Ph.D. And each year only a small percentage of them will land a job that justifies and rewards their investment. For every comfortably tenured professor or well-paid former academic, there are countless underpaid and overworked adjuncts, and many more who simply give up in frustration.

Those who do make it share an important asset that separates them from the pack: they have a plan. They understand exactly what they need to do to set themselves up for success.  They know what really moves the needle in academic job searches, how to avoid the all-too-common mistakes that sink so many of their peers, and how to decide when to point their Ph.D. toward other, non-academic options.

Karen Kelsky has made it her mission to help readers join the select few who get the most out of their Ph.D. As a former tenured professor and department head who oversaw numerous academic job searches, she knows from experience exactly what gets an academic applicant a job. And as the creator of the popular and widely respected advice site The Professor is In, she has helped countless Ph.D.’s turn themselves into stronger applicants and land their dream careers.

navpathNavigating the Path to Industry: A Hiring Manager’s Advice for Academics Looking for Jobs in Industry by M.R. Nelson.  From the publisher: Finding a job is hard. Running a non-academic job search when all of your previous experience is in academia is even harder. This book won’t make it easy (unfortunately, nothing can do that), but it will help you learn to run a successful job search and avoid common pitfalls. It provides a hiring manager’s advice on networking, conducting informational interviews, converting your curriculum vitae into a resume, writing a cover letter, interviewing, and maintaining your self-confidence throughout the job search process. This concise collection of job searching advice provides a framework for finding the way out of academia and into a new job for academics at all levels who have realized that they want a different sort of career.

gradprofPeterson’s Graduate & Professional Programs: An Overview (2014 edition) from Peterson’s Guides.  From the publisher: Peterson’s Graduate & Professional Programs: An Overview 2014 contains over 2,200 university/college profiles noting degrees available, enrollment figures, tuition, financial support, housing, faculty, research affiliations, library facilities, and contact information. This graduate guide enables students to explore program listings by field and institution.

  • Informative data profiles for more than 2,200 institutions, including facts and figures on accreditation, faculty, students, degree requirements, application deadlines, expenses, financial support, and application contacts.
  • Two-page in-depth descriptions, written by each featured institution, give complete details on the graduate study available.
  • Expert advice on the admissions process, financial support, and accrediting agencies
  • Comprehensive directories list programs in each volume.
  • Up-to-date appendixes list institution changes since the last edition and abbreviations used in the guide.

The First Step to My Career

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding grant.  We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending the summer.  You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Yani Liang, Penn Design MCP ’17

Since I came to Penn, my career goal has been clear: to become a qualified transportation planner, capable of balancing public equity and policy orientation, to develop plans that will contribute to the sustainable development of public transit after graduation. The summer internship I found is the Subway Performance Support Aide in Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York City, which operates the busiest and largest transit system in North America. Before the internship began, I expected it as my first and most important step to my future career. Now, I have been interning in MTA for almost 2 months, I found that my expectation is definitely right. The intern perfectly aligns with my career goal.

The Department of Subways (DOS) is the sub-division of NYCT. Under DOS, there are several subdivisions as well. I worked in Performance Analysis Unit (PAU) under the department of Subways of Finance. I have been assisting in building a performance database for subways. I am also participating in the projects of analyzing recent and long-term changes in service performance of subways, especially through the quantification of the impact of delays causes.

I learned a lot and found that there are several things I could do to be successful during the internship. Firstly, the most important thing is know what you know, and set up reasonable goals to help you work on the right track. I have established three main goals with my supervisor which will ensure that I am able to apply what I have learned in school to the real world problems and gain valuable working experience. The three main goals go along with corresponding tasks that help me achieve the goals and also make contributions to PAU. I have routine tasks to do every day and I must pay great attention to details. I also have some projects that would come up as surprises. I think they are challenges to me and I am excited to take them.

Secondly, being professional is of great significance working in a technique oriented department. We are required to know concepts of the subway system well because all of the analysis we are doing is based on the mechanism behind the tracks and trains. Only if I got an intimate knowledge of all the subway stuff, can I really establish a more accurate hypothesis and methods to conduct the analysis. I have learned a lot during my internship that I would have never learned in school. This new knowledge contains detailed aspects which greatly broadened my view of the transportation industry.

Thirdly, since large companies would often provide some education opportunities, I also think it is important to grasp those opportunities and keep ourselves at the cutting edge in the field. The HR division often provides opportunities for people to get involved in conferences, meetings, and tours that will help them get improved. However, most of the opportunities are not mandatory, so employees are able to choose to attend or not according to the schedule. It is flexible but it also means that initiative is required. Basically, my fellow professionals have their own plan for further career development. So everyone needs to be clear of what to do and what needs to be improved in their own career plan.

The advantages of the internship are not limited by the academic scope. It is also my first step to explore what kind of personalities a good transportation planner should have, how transportation department is organized, its daily operations, and how planners make significant influences on the development of public transits. In addition, I am building a good relationship with my colleagues, who are the professional planners in the transportation field. Beyond learning advanced technique skills, I am also going to develop my collaborative ability, decision making and problem solving skills.

Finally, I would like to appreciate the great help received from Career Services. I will continue to work hard during my internship and enjoy the summer in the New York City.


Impressions of a Summer Internship in Antigua

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding grant, and the first entry from our 2015 recipients.  We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending the summer.  You can read the entire series here.

This blog is by Esther Rose Needham, Penn Design, MCP ’16


My first impression of Antigua was the dryness. It was everywhere, even the aloe had turned brown and was beginning to shrivel in on itself. Flying into the Caribbean Island, where I spent my summer interning at the government’s Environment Division with the help of funding from Career Services, I could see the sunburnt cliffs sloping into the turquoise water. The contrast was breathtaking yet harsh. Antigua and Barbuda, the twin island nation, has been experiencing lower than average rainfall for several years, dipping into a severe drought this spring. Though the lack of groundwater and limited surface water has been an asset at times throughout history, it now presents a struggle for those that call the small island home. Relying primarily on collected rainwater, which has been in scarce supply, the public utilities department has been forced to put the island on rotating water rationing. No water means no functioning plumbing, not even government offices are excluded. So from learning how to flush a toilet with a hand scoop, to dancing in the rain at a carnival fete, to a 5 a.m. hike to a reservoir, this summer has been all about water and discovery.


Even at work I have been learning and it has been all about water. My internship revolves around spatial data, mapping and analyses, specifically that of hydrologic information. I have spent hours meticulously combing over aerial images and hot afternoons conducting fieldwork to map water features. Ultimately working on projects related to watersheds and flooding, I have learned an incredible amount about hydrologic modeling and have felt an intense satisfaction in my work. Though I have been lucky enough to live on a beautiful hilltop with a cistern to catch rainwater, protected from both seawater flooding and water rationing, I know that most residents of Antigua are not so lucky. Here and throughout the world many people are affected by decreasing rainfall and increasing drought and flooding as a result of climate change. I am incredibly blessed that I have had the opportunity to make a small contribution in this field, especially on such a beautiful and welcoming island.

ester1When I first arrived here I had never snorkeled on a reef or kayaked through mangroves. I had never seen sea turtles mating or traced their tracks up a white sand beach. I had never gone free-diving, swam with wild sting rays and eels, or night snorkeled with phosphorescence. I didn’t know that putting guppies in your cistern would get rid of the breeding mosquitoes or that lizards would eat those mosquitoes off of your legs if you sat very still. I had never photographed a night-blooming cereus, eaten raw sea urchin on the beach or mastered left-hand driving. I had never felt the mist of tropical rain on my bed or the wind at my back on the bow of a sailboat as the Caribbean sun sank. I have learned so much. I have had the rare chance to experience the world from another perspective and I am grateful. Antigua has embraced me and I can only hope that I have given back as much as I have received.

Are you a GRADUATE STUDENT WHO JUST GRADUATED?: Please fill out the career plans survey!

by Julie Vick, Senior Career Counselor

Your response provides us with critical information about job market and salary trends that is extremely useful to current graduate students considering career options and to Career Services staff.  In the aggregate, the data from the surveys provide us with statistics to share with current and future graduate students who are evaluating career possibilities.   Previous years’ survey results on our website.

Go to:  You will be asked to input your PennKey and password.  It will take only five minutes to complete it.

All individual responses are confidentialIf you haven’t finalized your plans, please fill out the survey anyway.  And, remember: our services are available to you for as long as you may need them.  Do not hesitate to call (215) 898-7530 to make an appointment or find out about walk-in hours.