Back to School: How Positive Internships Impact the Classroom

by Carolyn Riley

It’s the first week of Fall! This has always been one of my favorite times of the year. Maybe because I have been on a student’s schedule for my entire life, the start of a new academic year is when I reflect and make my “New Year’s Resolutions”. Personally, I am super excited to be entering my final year at the University of New Hampshire; but one of the things I quickly noticed as the fall semester began, is that I am not in the majority. My friends and peers are excited to be the big kids on campus but there is an overarching fear of “the unknown.” What are we going to do when we graduate?

This past summer  interned full time with College for Social Innovation. It was one of the most challenging experiences of my academic/work life, but also one of the most pivotal -- a foundation for my career. About a month ago I had an informal interview with Eric, my supervisor and the Founder of College for Social Innovation (CfSI), where we reflected on my full time internship, which was the first “office” experience of my life. Now that I am reflecting on how I can improve my classwork this school year, I am seeing just how great an impact my summer experience is already having on my success in the classroom.

Now that I have a much clearer ability to view the correlation between theory and practice, I have noticed myself being more engaged in class, and more focused when studying.

Another lesson, which took me by surprise, is how much more comfortable I am approaching Professors and participating in class. After spending the summer always being the youngest person in the room I have seen a notable improvement in my comfortability in engaging with my Professors and Advisors. In fact, I would almost go as far as to say I am better at talking with “grown ups” than with students my age :D.

Perhaps the most important lesson I have learned, which I will take with me as I begin the job hunt, is that finding the right job for you isn’t just about the industry you want to work in, or what the company looks like on paper, it’s about finding a company with a strong culture and clear values. At CfSI I have never been treated like “some 20 year old college student.” My thoughts and opinions have always been welcomed, and never dismissed (and I only had to fetch the coffee once!).

But while I get to take away these great lessons and advantages from my internship, we all know that this experience is much too uncommon, especially for students with less privilege. I am now walking away with a much stronger resume, including deliverables I can use as an example of my skills. (One of these deliverables being my final presentation at a showcase at UNH, which you can view here).

College for Social Innovation is striving to bring these opportunities to a broader, more diverse student pool, and I am so encouraged by the support and growth we have seen just over these past few months. Now, CfSI is expanding its core team and planning to hire two Service Year Fellows -- young leaders who will be working fulltime within a few weeks, helping to build the organization so it’s ready to receive 100 undergraduate “Social Innovation Fellows (including an estimated 50 from UNH) in the 2016-17 school year. These two leaders will be key components to the startup team, bringing the experiences I had as founding intern to life. I invite you to check out our Indiegogo campaign where we are raising money to pay for these two Fellows, and contribute if you can. We appreciate any and all support.