Summer in Dubai

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 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 their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Carson Kahoe, COL ’19

My internship in Dubai with Alserkal Avenue offered me an improbably perfect combination of my two great interests in college. As an arts and culture organization dedicated to creating a hub for artists from all across the region, the Avenue catered both to my major in Modern Middle Eastern Studies and my minor in Fine Arts. What’s more, living in Dubai offered me an opportunity to immerse myself in the Gulf region, practice my Farsi with the many Iranians living in Dubai, and gain an appreciation for its culture firsthand by living in it every day. Sadly, since Dubai is known for its luxury hotels and flashy skyline, I feared that the cost would keep me from experiencing the city on the level I hoped I could. However, the funding from Career Services freed me from worrying about cab and dinner fares and let me focus more on exploration and experience.

Exploring Dubai’s neighborhoods almost every weekend, I gained an appreciation for the city on foot. I would pick a destination and wander from there. Though the heat proved prohibitive during the day—120 degrees and nearly 100% humidity—I connected most with the city on the nights by taking the metro to a neighborhood, walking to a nearby restaurant I wanted to visit, and then wandering the nearby stores. Using that method, I had conversations with shopkeepers, bought a book from the owner of a neat secondhand bookstore, and befriended a barber while watching a Philippino bodybuilding show. I also visited Dubai’s neighboring emirate to the north, Sharjah, to visit the Sharjah Art Foundation, explore the city, and spend the evening on the beach.

Having the freedom to travel also allowed me to take full advantage of the city’s linguistic opportunities. Given the United Arab Emirate’s proximity to Iran, Dubai has a large Iranian community. On weekends, I would sometimes travel to the city’s bazaar neighborhood in the north and speak Farsi with the Iranian saffron store owners. On the recommendation of my landlady, I also met one Iranian woman for lunch and quickly became her friend. I had the privilege of seeing her several times while I was in Dubai and meeting her family. As a parting gift, she gave me a book of letters from the modern giant of Persian poetry, Forough Farrokhzad.

That freedom allowed me to take advantage of the region as a whole as well. To renew my visa, I had to exit and reenter the country, so I took the opportunity to catch the cheapest flight out of Dubai and spend a weekend in another country. As a result, I spent the holiday weekend at the end of the holy month of Ramadan in Muscat, the capital of Oman, where I met people on the beaches and enjoyed the atmosphere as families all around me cooked holiday dinners. Ultimately, as someone who studies the Gulf region and hopes to use an understanding of it in a future career in diplomacy or academia, the opportunity to experience my time in Dubai fully was priceless. Getting over my fear of cab fares got me out of my room and allowed me to see beyond Dubai’s shiny towers and get to know it on a deeper, more personal level.


Treat the job search like a class.

Jingy Yen, Career Counselor

When I was in college, I had trouble figuring out how to balance my time between my commitments, classes, and looking for jobs. I knew I had to sit down and think about applying for things, but after a long day of exams, meetings and projects this seemed almost impossible. My career advisor gave me some advice that I constantly pass on to my students – treat the job search like a class. By doing this, I was able to compartmentalize and the job search didn’t seem like a looming thing that I stressed about all day. To ensure successful implementation of this strategy, there are two easy steps to follow:

  1. Set aside designated time

Schedule time every week to work on your job, internship or graduate school search. This seems obvious, but the most important thing is to not schedule things over it. Treat it like a class by making it consistent and not something you can easily miss.

  1. Don’t worry about it the rest of the time

You know you will work on “career stuff” at a certain time every week, so don’t worry about it the rest of the week. This helped me tremendously because I didn’t feel the constant pressure of having to look for something when I knew I would have time to work on it later. Let yourself have some time off!

Of course there will be times that you have to do things outside of the designated time, like answer time sensitive emails or go to an interview (kind of like homework!). I found that by setting aside the time earlier in the week, I was able to proactively schedule these things, be more prepared and feel more organized throughout the entire process.

I’ve used this strategy for many other things in my life – so it doesn’t work just for career related things! Anytime you have a stressful issue that seems to take over everything, this can be a way to tackle it one step at a time.


This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 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 their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Sia-Linda Lebbie, COL ’21

Thanks to the funding I received from Career Services, I am blessed to say that I have been able to give back to a community that raised me and made me the person that I am today. I come from Salem, Massachusetts, a small city that is just outside of Boston. Salem has a growing immigrant community, predominately hailing from the Dominican Republic. Many of the adolescents in this community have lower reading comprehension and test scores. This is primarily due to their families not having the funds to provide extracurricular activities and enriching summer programs.

The non-profit I interned for this summer, LEAP for Education, provides just what this community needs: free after-school and summer programming for low-income and/or first-generation students. LEAP, as we refer to it, provides programming in Salem, Peabody and Gloucester, all local cities, to nearly seven hundred students. Their programs range from an after-school Teen Center to a Zero Robotics coding summer coding competition.

This year Salem High School and Salem State University are partnering with LEAP to run an Early College program. This program will allow fifty Salem High students to take college classes their Junior and Senior years of high school, graduate with four college credits, and if all their courses are passed, the students will receive early admission to Salem State. This program is free-of-charge for all of the students involved, even their textbooks are provided.

Salem State provides the classes, Salem High the students, and LEAP provided the summer college readiness seminar, which I primarily worked on. I worked with five empowering women at LEAP to create learning materials for our program. I made phone calls to students and parents, registered them for one of the two tracks available, ensured that they had turned in their Dual Enrollment forms, and reminded them to show up once the dates drew near.

I also developed lesson plans, such as my Outlining and Study Skills lessons, two of which I modeled after the skills that I had gained at Penn. Throughout the seminar, I was a LEAP instructor that helped teach one of the classes. I was fortunate enough to work with two phenomenal women who have a passion for educating populations that mainstream society deems “unworthy.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this summer because I was able to learn a lot. I learned how to create curriculum that is catered to first-generation students. I learned that behind every successful non-profit, is a team of people who work relentlessly to create long-lasting impact. I am sincerely grateful for the opportunity Career Services was able to give me. Due to their funding, I was able to not worry about finances and bring my full attention to LEAP’s endeavors. I am also grateful for the LEAP staff for welcoming me with open arms. They gave me a responsibility that was able to mold me into someone who works efficiently with teams to execute a successful venture, a skill set I had not developed before. I will take these skills with me wherever I go.


Resources for New International Students – Crossing Your “t”s and Dotting your “i”s

By Dr. Esther H. Ra, Career Advisor

When I lived overseas in Seoul after college, it was thrilling, yet intimidating trying to find my groove in a city that was foreign, but yet now my “home.” I had a couple touchpoints throughout the city that helped me get through the first few months there. I was very grateful to the kind souls who showed me where I could shop for groceries (in the basement of a department store), how to pay my utilities bill (at the bank!), and how to navigate the bus terminal to various cities (unlocking the key to visiting extended family). I remember those first few days of walking around and soaking everything in, while trying to make sense of my whereabouts. It was an exhilarating and formidable time. When I think back, I am so thankful to the kind friends and colleagues who took the time to share valuable resources with me. These resources set me up for success and helped me enjoy my experience in what is now one of my very favorite cities in the world!

Similarly, on Penn campus, many new international students and colleagues have joined us on our campus. The fall 2018 semester is in full swing and already the onslaught of a new year and its classes, events, and activities are upon us. If you’re an international student or colleague, are you ready to conquer this semester? Has the semester already been filled with some anxiety and trepidation? Do you feel overwhelmed by the assignments, deadlines, “to-do lists”, and activities? All of this is exhausting for any student, but if you’re a student who is living in a different cultural context than your own, it can be downright daunting. Below is a breakdown of some of the resources on campus at your fingertips:

Penn Career Services:
Our office services students and alumni of all undergraduate schools and most graduate schools. We strategize with students to define career goals and develop their potential. We offer resume, CV and cover letter reviews, as well as mock interviews. In addition, we conduct a plethora of practical workshops and events related to networking, including career fairs, meet and greets, and employer information sessions. Be sure to be registered on Handshake to access jobs and announcements from our office:

Counseling and Psychological Services at Penn (CAPS):
As the counseling hub for the University, CAPs offers free counseling and confidential services to all Penn students. They offer appointments for life’s transitions and challenges, and work with you to develop coping strategies for situational contexts.

International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS):
I’m sure by now you are very familiar with ISSS’ services and with advisors who can assist you with visa questions and immigration processes. This office is instrumental to Penn’s international students and I encourage you to use their expertise to make the most out of your experience on Penn campus.

Marks Family Writing Center:
The Marks Family Writing Center is a resource center that can be utilized by both undergraduate and graduate students for feedback on any writing needs. If you’re having trouble developing a paper, writing a cover letter, or struggling to create a PowerPoint for a course you are taking, the experienced staff at the Writing Center can lend a critical eye for great feedback. With a little bit of prior planning, this is an amazing free resource, you can utilize to brainstorm and organize your writing projects. We have had many students, particularly international graduate students tell us that it was a great place to visit when struggling to draft their first cover letter.

Penn Tutoring:
This center at Penn is for undergraduates only. They offer supplemental help for your academics with tutors who are an ace in the subject area you may be struggling to understand. Again, with a little bit of planning, this free campus resource could be a wonderful aide to any bumps in the road with adapting to the academic rigor that is Penn. We’ve had many students tell us that this has been an invaluable resource and a great help to becoming acclimated to classes on campus.

Weingarten Learning Resource Center:
Did you know that Weingarten Learning Resources Center has programs especially designed for international students’ and their transition to Penn’s campus and its academics? Many of them take place at the beginning of the semester. Some of the workshops offered may help with organizing your semester, discuss cultural differences and expectations in the US classroom, as well as equip you with research skills and citations.

I hope these places on campus can serve as touchpoints for your time on Penn Campus. You’ll be so glad you crossed your “t”s and dotted your “i”s when you did (an American idiom for being detailed and thorough). Welcome and we wish you a successful semester!

CS Radio – Episode 67: “OCR Madness”

On Campus Recruiting season is officially underway.  We know that it can be overwhelming, even confusing and it’s the one area of Handshake that isn’t as straightforward as it could be.  Luckily, Natty Leach, our Handshake job and internships manager stops by to clarify things for A. Mylène and J. Michael.


Show Notes

– On Campus Recruiting Virtual Tour

On Campus Recruiting Orientation

Handshake mobile app (iOS)

Handshake mobile app (Android)