The Gambia

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 Raisa Rauf, COL ’19

Even now when I look at a world map, it astonishes me that I lived The Gambia. Sitting in class and learning about global health was one thing; it was a completely different platform experiencing it first hand.

From the moment I landed up until the minute I got on the return flight, I learned new things, ate different foods, delved into Gambian culture, made new friends and formulated memories that would last a lifetime.  I wore African dresses and learned to cook Gambian dishes (Benechin is my favorite!). I had the opportunity to learn about a culture that I might have never learned about. This experience opened my eyes to another world, a world that, although is different from mine, is also very similar. I feel so lucky to have this experience; it truly has shaped my identity and increased my cultural awareness. The world is becoming smaller with the aid of technology, and I believe it is the duty of a global citizen to learn about the cultures that make it up. This experience is a step forward toward fulfilling that duty.

Aside from the cultural experiences I had, this opportunity shaped my academic goals. Prior to going to The Gambia, I knew that I wanted to do something in global health, but I was unsure. What is it like? What are the challenges? What are those on the ground experiencing? How do clinicians in developing nations cope with limited resources? These are questions that I asked myself constantly, but regardless of the readings I would do, I always felt that I was missing something. But my time in Bwiam General Hospital answered my burning questions, and I finally knew, absolutely, what I wanted to do with my life: pursue medicine and provide medical care for those in need in developing nations. I knew this because I fell in love with the work. I marveled at the way procedures were conducted, awed by the doctor’s commitment to caring for patients 24/7, and inspired by watching how clinicians gave the best care with limited resources.

This opportunity has broadened my worldly experience, made me better equipped in engaging with global health scholars, exposed me to the challenges that third world nations face in regards to health care and strengthened my belief that the same solution cannot be applied everywhere (rather, it is extremely important to tailor solutions to the environment and society). And none of this would have been possible if I had not received funding. I have always believed that money should not hinder one from achieving their dreams, but I accepted this as a sad reality for myself; I certainly could not afford a plane ticket, and all the other costs of living. Hence, the funding I received was a game changer for me. It opened doors for me that would have otherwise remained shut for the rest of my life, and I cannot appreciate it enough. Thank you for blessing me with this opportunity.

Exploring the Foreign Service Abroad

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 Jorge Pendao, COL ’19

As I waited for my early departure in May, I nervously anticipated what the following 10 weeks would look like. After my two previous summers consisted of volunteering positions in a variety of fields, I knew that I wanted to explore a field directly related to a career I’m interested in. After applying seven months beforehand in October 2017, I was finally embarking on my internship in the International Narcotics & Law Enforcement section at the US Embassy in Lima.

For the internship, I was excited to learn more about work at an American embassy and the duties of a foreign service officer. Working under the INL Program Officer, who manages INL’s justice programs, seemed like a perfect opportunity to learn first-hand the work being done in this field I am interested in. It was also additionally exciting to be able to spend my summer in Peru where I could learn that much more about South America and the regional geopolitics.

Within the first week, I knew that the following weeks would be much more than I anticipated. Though I was quite nervous this first week because of all the security measures and the weight of working in a government position, I was immediately intrigued with the work I was doing. Though the name gives the impression of focusing on narcotics affairs, I quickly realized there was so much more everyone worked on. Whether it was the growing issue of illegal gold mining in the Madre de Dios region or the public corruption scandals in the Ministry of Justice, the office was always busy which meant I was as well. I had the fortune of sitting in on meetings with high-level Peruvian officials and writing a report on national issues that would be sent to Washington. In addition to working with my supervisor who explained the content of his work and the dynamics of the embassy, I believe all of the experiences, all of the work and all of the people have deeply helped me secure my interest in this field.

With regards to how the Career Service grant impacted my summer experience, I believe that the funding most definitely improved the overall experience. From a logistical perspective, the funding lifted a significant financial burden that I would have had otherwise. Because the internship was unpaid and in a different country, I would have had to pay for my flight, housing and all of my food which would have significantly challenged my ability to participate. However, with help from the funding, I didn’t have to worry about this, and I was able to focus on the actual experience without stressing about financial concerns.

After finishing the internship and having some time to reflect, I realize how helpful the funding was in easing the process and allowing me to participate in this amazing opportunity and confidently determine my interest in this career path. This summer experience was one I will definitely remember and take into consideration in my future career path.

“Once a researcher, always a researcher”

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 Maya Moore, COL ’20

“Once a researcher, always a researcher,” I thought out loud as I sat with some of my colleagues on the final day of my internship. My summer working at the National Human Genome Research Institute within the National Institutes of Health was really an experience like no other. I had worked at NIH for a short time during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school but I was excited to return back to this renowned research facility once again—this time working in a new lab.

I spent ten weeks working in the Health Disparities Unit within the Social and Behavioral Research Branch (SBRB) of the genome institute. There, under the direction of my supervisor, Mr. Vence Bonham, I prepared the protocol and materials for a study to be conducted in the fall assessing perceptions of pharmacogenetic testing in native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities. Due to genetic variation, different people respond differently to different drugs. In this contemporary age of precision medicine, pharmacogenetic testing offers the great promise of using genetic information to match the right patient to the right drug at the right dose. Because native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are so highly underrepresented in pharmacogenetics research and genetic research overall, there is very little information that is available to make these drug/gene relationships and thus marking a disparity in knowledge of effective treatment options across ethnic groups. Therefore, we conduct this study to elucidate what possible cultural, ethical, or perhaps social factors may present barriers to participation in pharmacogenomics testing. My involvement in the study preparation was extensive. My roles included writing the protocol for the study– to be submitted to and approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB), writing the script for the focus group interviews that mark the study, writing and revising the demographic survey questions, and learning how to use the data analysis software R so that I could analyze the focus group transcripts upon receipt. I was delighted by how much autonomy my principal investigator gave me. He trusted that I could effectively design a study, using critical thinking skills to consider how to best gather information. Gathering the materials and resources for the study helped me realize that in much of my previous research experience, I had been on the tail end of the scientific process. I now have a newfound respect and understanding for all the work that goes into planning a study and preparing it to be conducted. There is a lot of thought that is required to developed an effective study and effective research starts with asking the right questions.

My summer 2018 research experience really could not have been any better. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to study at an institution like Penn that goes out of its way to ensure that there are no barriers to creating the best possible opportunities for its students. Being at NIH this summer was much like being at Penn; I was surrounded by a cohort of scholars who were so driven, intelligent, and passionate about doing what they do. That atmosphere is truly contagious and inspires me to continue my research both at Penn and beyond.

Explore the Your Career Possibilities with an Externship

Tiffany J. Franklin, Associate Director

Students at Facebook 2018 – Engineering Externship program

This week sophomores, juniors and 1st year master’s students within the School of Engineering & Applied Science have the opportunity to apply to the Engineering Externship program for a day of job shadowing to be held in January 2019. These experiences help students see first-hand how their skills and interests align with professional positions in their career fields of interest. Applications are due this Friday, November 30th at noon. Interested SEAS students can email Tiffany Franklin at for a full list of sites for 2019 and to apply.

By participating in a “day in a life” within a work environment, you can gain exposure to an industry, insightful conversation, invaluable advice, and an insider perspective. Externships are typically job shadowing opportunities that are a half or full-day in duration and may involve the following activities:

  • Participating in daily operations that provide hands-on exposure to the career field/industry
  • Completing a relevant project if the externship is long enough to accommodate it
  • Attending meetings and presentations
  • Touring the work site
  • Conducting informational interviews with professionals in a range of departments and levels
Students at the Phillies 2018 – Engineering Externship Program

Depending on your school and year, you can participate in one of the structured job shadowing programs through Career Services (for example, the Engineering Externship Program or Discovery Days) or you can create this type of opportunity on your own through networking, which is simply connecting with people. Perhaps you have a friend with a relative working in a field that interests you. You could see if that person could introduce you and begin by scheduling a brief informational interview. Once you’ve established a rapport over time, you could inquire whether any job shadowing opportunities are available. Career Services advisors are here to help you consider both the timing and content of this type of outreach.

  • Discovery Days allow students to explore jobs and industries of interest to them through first-hand exposure opportunities with employers in a range of industries. Our goal is to provide students with an opportunity to observe a “day in the life” of Penn alumni or other professionals. These events are primarily for sophomores in the College of Arts and Sciences or in Wharton. Stay tuned for future announcements for our next Discovery Days to be held in spring 2019! You can also check back for updates here:
  •  Career Services’ Externships in Higher Education Program allows students to obtain hands-on academic administration experience working in a campus office at Penn with mentorship and guidance from experienced professionals. More information about last year’s externships program (2017) can be found here.
  • Engineering Externship Program connects returning students with alumni and their colleagues at their workplaces in January, just before spring semester classes begin. The program is open to SEAS sophomores, juniors, and first year master’s students with first priority going to sophomores and then juniors. Externship sites include different types of companies, in locations across the U.S. and overseas. Consult your weekly Handshake career mail newsletters from Career Services for full application details.

Whether it’s through a formal program through Career Services or through your own networking, job shadowing is an excellent way to supplement your research about a career field. By meeting with professionals who do what you hope to, you will have the opportunity to ask questions, gain insights into the challenges they face, and learn from their experience.

CS Radio – Episode 76: “A Link(edIn) to the Past”

This week, we’re happy to announce the return of an annual tradition: the Career Services LinkedIn Photobooth! With that event now on the calendar, Michael and Mylène take a look at the basics of setting up a LinkedIn profile, some tips and tricks helpful to undergraduate job seekers on LinkedIn and the benefits of joining groups.  Also, information on this week’s Nursing Career Day.  Enjoy!