Sharing in Lives Through an Externship

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 Sarah Ku, Nursing ’16

kuThis summer, I spent 8 weeks externing at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Northeast Philadelphia. I learned an incredible amount about cancer both at the bedsides of patients and also through the observational opportunities I was given. One of my most unforgettable days was when I observed in the Operating Room. I witnessed the excision of borders around a facial lesion which were then sent to pathology to be tested for cancerous cells. Fortunately, none of the borders were cancerous and by the time I came back from the surgical pathology room, the surgeon had already removed the lesion and was sewing the patient’s skin back together. This process was insightful as to how some cancers are diagnosed and can be immediately treated.

The information I learned regarding more terminal cancers were made on the floor of a medical oncology unit. During my first couple weeks, I witnessed a patient code, or have cardiopulmonary arrest. Throughout my clinicals, none of my patients ever coded so seeing the efficiency of procedures that occurred after the code was called was something I never would have expected to see. Unfortunately, this particular patient could not be resuscitated and I learned some first-hand post-mortem care as well.

Of course, not every one of my days at my externship were as eventful or insightful as the two I mentioned. Most days I learned about the true nature of nursing which included timing patient care, phrasing information in the most accurate but least painful way, making patients comfortable, and cleaning up patients who soiled their beds because they could not make it to their restrooms. Some days were more difficult than others and sometimes, my patience ran thin even though I had the amazing opportunity to help people with terminal illnesses feel better physically and emotionally. It was difficult to wake up at 4:45 AM, take a train and a bus, make it on to the floor by 6:30 AM, work a 12 hour shift and make the same commute back home. Still, by the end of my internship, I can honestly say that I still love nursing and the population of cancer patients.

I believe that the greatest lesson I learned this summer was not really about cancer at all. I think it was learning to be human, to find humanity in every situation I am in, and to embrace that humanity once it is found. This lesson came from the countless connections that I made with patients. It came from realizing that even though I was a nurse extern, I was still human and could relate to a patient’s husband because we both shared the struggle of overcoming language and cultural barriers. It came from finding the humanity in death and embracing that humanity because every life was so full and beautiful. Deaths became more about the lives they lived than their endings. How lucky I am that my future career is not only to take care of people, but to meet people, to listen to their stories, and share our lives with each other.

Standing Out in a Crowded Job Search

By Sharon Fleshman

The city of Philadelphia made much preparation for Pope Francis’ recent visit, anticipating big crowds along Ben Franklin Parkway. Crowded spaces can be energetic yet overwhelming at the same time. Likewise, the job search can feel the same way. Whether you attend a conference in your field, a career fair or an employer information session, there are ways to leave a positive and memorable impression that can potentially open the door to career opportunities.

Do your homework. Be sure to research employers of interest that will attend career fairs or host information sessions. Look at the list of speakers or panelists who will attend conferences and read up on their careers. Consider how your interests and skills align with the mission, values and work of the employers or professionals who appeal to you the most. This will pave the way for more engaging dialogue with those who can offer insight for the job search.

Ask thoughtful questions and take good notes. Good preparation will allow you to pose questions that make it clear that you have a genuine interest in a given company or profession. Jot down key takeaways from presentations at information sessions or conferences. If you have chats with recruiters or presenters that are particularly engaging, write highlights from the conversation on the back of their business cards.

Follow up with key contacts. Timely follow-up is a crucial next step after attending career-related events and your notes from your conversations will help you craft tailored correspondence. Start your follow-up emails by thanking the contact for taking the time to speak with you at the event. Mention highlights from what you discussed and indicate that your interest in the employer or profession was affirmed by the conversation. For recruiting events such as career fairs and information sessions, you can also note specific positions to which you have applied (or will apply).   For professional development events such as conferences, you can ask additional questions that came to mind after the event or request an informational interview with the contact.

If you would like further assistance with preparation and follow-up for career events, feel free to connect with one of your career advisors at Career Services.


CS Radio Episode 2: “On Campus Recruiting”

episode 2The second episode of our new podcast is now live!  Join hosts A. Mylene Kerschner and J. Michael DeAngelis as they walk you through the basics of Penn’s On Campus Recruiting process.  Later in the show, we’re joined by Associate Director for the College of Arts & Sciences team, Heather Trannen.



Getting to Know You: The Purpose of Medical School Interviews

by Caroline Wilky, Associate Director

Congratulations on your medical school interview! To secure an interview, you have likely devoted countless hours to study and preparation. With the goal you have been working towards for so long so close, you might be tempted to over-prepare.

Over-preparing, however, is more often than not counterproductive because medical school interviewers truly want to get to know you as a person. If you have been invited to interview, the admissions committee is confident in your academic ability. Consequently, the majority of interviewers are not interested in poking holes in your research or grilling you about the intricacies of the Affordable Care Act. They want to know whether you have the personal qualities, such as maturity, sensitivity, empathy, and self-knowledge, as well as the communication skills needed to be a successful (and happy) medical student and future physician.

If you over-rehearse or prepare a script or sales pitch for your interview, you risk turning what should be a conversation into an awkward, and ultimately self-defeating, performance. In an effort to stick to your prepared script, you may fail to listen to your interviewer’s questions or read his or her body language. Your interviewer might be left wondering how you will be able to communicate with patients if you cannot communicate effectively in an interview setting. This is not the impression you want to make.

That said, you do not what your interview to be the first time you talk about yourself and what has led you to pursue a career in medicine. There are things you can and should do to prepare.

First and foremost, practice discussing out loud personal anecdotes and experiences that influenced your thinking about science, medicine, patient care, or life in general. Talk about your academics, research, clinical experience, and extracurricular activities (medically related and not), but in a way that emphasizes their impact on you as a person. Do not just describe your research. Talk about what you liked about it (such as working as team, for example, or adapting to surprising results). Interviewers are less interested in hearing you describe what you did (that information is on your application), than how what you did shaped you as person.

Finally, schedule a mock with a member of our staff. We will help you prepare enough to feel confident and come across as the well-rounded and personable person you are.


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 Hannah Grossman, COL ’16

This summer, I spent time at two non profit organizations, New Leaders in New York City and Springboard Collaborative in Philadelphia, which are devoted to closing the achievement gap in our schools. New Leaders develops educators across the country into effective school leaders by helping them create a vision of student success that engages the whole staff. Springboard Collaborative sets up a reading program for inner city elementary students.

My jobs at the two organizations varied greatly. At New Leaders, I assisted in moving a handbook for school leaders towards publication. The book outlines the organization’s leadership development framework, making it an accessible tool for schools across the country. As I helped collect data on student progress and spoke with some of the leaders who had worked with the organization, I was inspired by the clear and positive impact New Leaders was making; it could be seen through both the numbers and personal feedback.

It was through my internship with Springboard Collaborative that I was able to see positive results come to life. As an Operations Lead intern, based within Belmont Charter School in West Philadelphia, I was responsible—along with a school leader and eight of Belmont’s teachers—to implement Springboard’s reading program for Pre-K through 2nd grade students. The program served as a reading day camp for these students, many of whom were required to attend summer school in order to move on to the next grade. The Springboard model also coaches teachers, trains family members, and incentivizes learning in order to ensure reading success for each student. Every Wednesday, a parent or guardian attended a workshop with their Springboard scholar. Each workshop supplied them with a tool or strategy to use when reading with their child at home, ranging from asking questions before starting a book to reading like a storyteller. Springboard’s goal, through daily instruction and weekly workshops, was to transform a six week period in the summer that is usually characterized by reading loss into an opportunity for reading gain. The results were clear: the majority of these students demonstrated a three-month reading gain, allowing them to move forward in school more confident than they had left off in June. For many families, it introduced home as a new learning space for their kids.

While through very different outlets, there was a unifying characteristic of these organizations that undoubtedly contributed to their success: they were both resourceful. They provided power and strategy to people that had previously been underutilized. By fostering internally, both organizations are recognizing the value of people who are part of a school’s culture in creating sustainable change. School leaders and families of students are too often written off in discussions on how to improve education. While I was not fortunate enough to work with New Leaders’ principals directly, I did see firsthand the undeniable dedication of many parents at Springboard. When a family workshop was missed, I had parents meet with me immediately after their nightshift and cousins come in place of parents who did not speak enough English to feel comfortable alone. I had a mother who called me each week for extra reading tips in addition to those taught during workshops. This only made it clearer that the love parents have for their children cannot, and should not, be ignored in the search for sound solutions to the achievement gap.

I am incredibly grateful to Penn Career Services for granting me the funding that made my summer with New Leaders and Springboard Collaborative possible. Although the current state of urban education can be discouraging, I feel fortunate to have been able to contribute to two organizations that are bringing innovative and successful initiatives to education reform.