BY BRANDI DYE
Through the help of Drake University’s Professional and Career Development Services program and advisors, the majority of complete at least one internship before graduation.
Mikhail Koha Dei-Anang, a junior politics and international relations major, interned in the office of US Senator Al Franken, D-MN. “It’s much less ‘House of Cards’ than you would think,” Koha Dei-Anang said.
A day in the life of a Senate intern included giving Capitol tours, doing research and interacting with constituents.
“The best part was getting to interact with people,” Koha Dei- Anang said. “It was getting to interact with different people through the lens of politics.”
Koha Dei-Anang’s internship experience included in-depth research and interacting with people, while junior chemistry major Margaret Clapham’s research experience included primarily in-depth research.
“There were often days where I would go to the lab, not see anyone for eight hours and I would go home,” Clapham said, describing her work at the Research Experiences for Undergraduate (REU) program at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.
REUs are funded by the National Science Foundation and place students at universities nationwide to get hands-on research experience.
“The lab experience, in general, I think I’ll be using in the future,” Clapham said. “It’s educational experience and the research experience. They stress the experience portion.”
Experience is often just as valuable as any particular skill learned at an internship.
“Just because you have an internship that might not contribute directly to a skill set that you need for a future career, the experience of a day-to-day job, working with other employees and different kinds of people is good experience for life and for any career that you’re going to have,” said junior Emily Furlow, a marketing and data analytics major who was a research intern at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis this summer.
Since so many Drake students spend their summers as interns, both Koha Dei-Anang and Furlow heard about their positions through their classmates, using on-campus connections to foster real-world connections.
“I heard about the internship from one of the girls at school, the president of my business fraternity,” Furlow said. “She interned at the St. Louis Fed last year.”
Internships expose students to career avenues they had not previously thought of.
“(My internship) made me think more about being a staffer and being on a legislative team. It was something I didn’t completely have in my plans, but it definitely seems like a really interesting and fulfilling job,” Koha Dei-Anang said. “It’s really changed how I view a career in politics and opened up what I can do when I graduate.”
Despite enjoying the level of professionalism and the experience of conducting research, Clapham realized that the engineering and biochemistry sides of her field might not be for her.
“While I enjoyed what I did this summer, I don’t necessarily think this specific area is the perfect fit for me,” Clapham said.
She disliked her project, which was to design a new method of clinical drug testing.
Furlow thought her majors were not particularly utilized at the Federal Reserve Bank. But the experience proved to be eye opening.
“Because of the different networking areas through the different parts of the bank,” Furlow said. “I was able to see other areas were I would be able to apply my majors.”
For many Drake students, internships are their introduction to working in the “real world,” with all the perks and pressures of any other employee.
“D.C. really seemed like a happy hour kind of city, at least where I was on the Hill,” said Koha Dei-Anang about his experiences trading Trump jokes and discussing legislation. “It’s like a mass exodus out of the Senate and House buildings to some of the restaurants and bars around the Capitol.”
The internship application process is different across disciplines, but have a few things in common: resumes, cover letters and letters of recommendation. Advisors often serve as excellent resources to help with the process.
“(My advisor) wrote, what I assume, was a good letter of recommendation,” Clapham said. “He was very encouraging.”
Although the fall semester is just beginning, Koha Dei-Anang is already thinking ahead to next summer.
“I thought about trying to get another internship, but I don’t know if I want to be (far away) for another three months and not take classes here and (instead) try to do something around here politically.”
Clapham recommends a summer foray into the workforce.
“I highly, highly, highly encourage students to do this because it gives you a lot of confidence and its a completely different experience than working in a class setting.”