Mention the word “summer” to any college student, and images of beaches, late-night pool parties, ice cream, and sleeping in are likely to come to mind. For many 5-C students, however, summer was spent hard at work participating in fascinating and engaging internships in a variety of fields.Maya Rosas PI ’10 spent her summer teaching ESL at the Pomona Day Laborers’ Center and in Rancho Cucamonga, through a program offered to Pitzer students. She taught English to immigrant workers four days a week. Rosas loved the opportunity to practice Spanish with her students, most of whom were from Mexico, and was able to build strong relationships with them. The environment was informal: the students were not required to be there and could leave in the middle of class if they desired.This internship experience has inspired Rosas to be more politically active. This past summer, there were many border patrol raids, including one at Rancho Cucamonga in which a young student Rosas had been teaching all summer was arrested. Along with other immigrant rights supporters, Rosas joined an intense protest against these raids attended by the controversial Minutemen Project—an anti-illegal immigration watch-group. This activist spirit has stayed with Rosas. For example, last week she was, as she put it, “fighting Neo-Nazis” by counter-protesting at an anti-immigration event at a day laborer site in Riverside.While Rosas was helping day laborers, Kristina Hennig SC ’12 was visiting clothing factories in Shanghai. Hennig grew up in Hong Kong and, through a family friend, was able to secure an internship with Triton Textiles. She spent the first half of her time in Hong Kong with the merchandising and accounting teams, then went to Shanghai where she was able to see the factories where clothes for brands like American Eagle and Ralph Lauren are made.“It’s shocking how much work goes into a single T-shirt,” Hennig said. The workers’ conditions were regulated but still strikingly different from American standards: they worked ten hours a day on an assembly line and lived in the factory compound, where, Hennig said, “the bathrooms were horrible.” The culture shock was significant for Hennig. She was used to the more Westernized atmosphere in Hong Kong, but in Shanghai no one spoke English and little things like driving and mannerisms were different.Spencer Kline CM ’10 interned this past summer at a Health and Psycho-Physiology Lab at Harvard University in Boston, where he was able to do research on human psychology. As a research assistant, Kline was involved with three different studies. The experiment he found most interesting was called the “Harm Study” in which Kline, in various costumes, was the “victim” to simulated violence performed by the study’s participants. For example, he would don a fake leg and the participant would be asked to slam the hammer against his leg. Even though the participants were told that all the violence was fake, Kline said that the majority of people would become agitated and stressed out about supposedly afflicting pain upon another human. On the other hand, some people would become very intense: one man left a red mark across his neck from pressing the plastic knife so firmly. The results of this study are not yet completed.Kline really enjoyed his internship; he realized that doing such research is what he wants to do with his life after college. He found it strange to go back to school after this internship because he would rather go out and run his own experiments now.Other students stayed in the Los Angeles area for their internships. Karli Orr SC ’10 spent the summer as a development intern at the LA office of the Make-A-Wish foundation, the non-profit organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses.
Orr had many responsibilities, including organizing fund-raising events like Walk for Wishes in LA, and a celebrity-packed wine-tasting and auction. One of the most rewarding and intensely emotional experiences was when she was able to help with a “wish interview,” in which representatives meet with the children to discuss what wish they want to be granted. The young girl Orr talked to is going to be taken on a shopping spree in the near future, something this girl had always dreamed about, but never would have been able to afford.Caro de Freitas HM ’10 also had a local internship through Harvey Mudd. De Freitas did biomedical engineering research as part of the Engman Fellowship program. The purpose of her research was to develop an artificial cornea that could be used to treat people with corneal blindness. She was part of the “cornea team,” in which she and two other students, supervised by a professor, spent their days taking cells, stretching them, and then looking for specific proteins which make the cornea hazy in response to being wounded.
The internship was a stretch at first for de Freitas because her last internship involved more individual work. Working on an engineering team really taught her about cooperating with a diverse group of people.Other interesting internships 5-C students participated in this past summer included work with organizations such as HarperCollins, Children’s Hospital autism research, the Hawaii Institute of Human Rights, Feminist Majority Foundation, Oakland School for the Arts, and engineering in Australia. To find an internship of your own, the students recommend using professors as a resource and to begin networking early. It is also important not to be discouraged by the fact that the work may be unpaid; even if you’re not making money, the experience will pay off in the long-run. As usual, it is also important to be genuine in interviews.Such experiences are an important part of preparing for the world outside of college, and there are so many great ones from which to pick. Next summer could be your turn to explore and discover an amazing internship.