As Minnesota private college students return to campus to start the academic year, one certain conversation topic is what they’ve been up to over the summer. And for many, along with tales of friends and summer adventures, there’ll be stories of summer internships.
We asked four students about their experiences, hearing how they expanded their professional networks, learned new skills and gained valuable perspectives over the summer. Ben Lundsten, a soon-to-be graduate of the University of Northwestern – St. Paul, senior Ngan Huynh of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, junior Sophia Norha of Macalester College and senior Octavius Wilson Jr. of Saint John’s University reflected on the value of their summer internships — including how their unique summer experiences will guide them in the classroom and as they pursue their post-baccalaureate careers.
What is your field of study and how did your summer internship compliment your career interests?
Ben Lundsten: I will graduate this December with a degree in media production and a minor in sports communication. I had a paid internship at KTIS radio station as a programming intern, and I also have been working for a radio station in Waterloo, Iowa as an on-air host on Sunday nights.
Ngan Huynh: I’m currently an illustration major with an advertising minor at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. I was one of two design interns for the Minnesota Historical Society. I worked within the press and publishing department helping with design work for marketing materials, book covers and other promotional materials.
Sophia Norha: I’m an environmental studies and legal studies major at Macalester College. I was an investigative intern with the Hennepin County Public Defenders Office in Minneapolis.
Octavius Wilson Jr.: I’m an economics major at Saint John’s with a minor in data analytics. This summer, I worked as a finance intern with Microsoft Corporation in Seattle as part of their finance rotational program, which helped me diversify my skills and figure out what I like and don’t like within the field of finance.
How did you learn about the opportunity and what initially interested you about the position?
Lundsten: My professor asked if I would be interested in taking a radio programming opportunity. I wanted this experience to learn what radio was like, since a lot of my prior experience was at a student station. In addition, the opportunity with the station in Waterloo gave me the opportunity to host an actual radio show, and I found that incredibly appealing for the experience and for building my resume.
Huynh: I learned about the opportunity through the career development team at MCAD. Since I’m an illustration major, I was interested in working within a publishing department and relating my interest in books to press and publishing work. For my internship search, I specifically searched for and targeted publishing opportunities.
Norha: To find the opportunity, I used Macalester’s online alumni directory. I contacted an attorney with the Hennepin County Public Defenders Office. I looked for experiences to help me better understand what areas of law I’m most interested in.
Wilson Jr.: I applied to corporate finance roles that fit my skills. My goal was to have an internship at a well-known corporation. I wanted to test my skills on a bigger scale. I enjoyed being able to diversify my skills, so that I could be ready to try different roles and explore different options through the rotations of the internship program.
What was a typical day for you on the job?
Lundsten: On my busiest day, I was creating promos or on-air content for the radio station. I also prepared for my show. I came up with topics that would interest my listeners. I tried to find something local to Iowa, which is where my show was based. Then I recorded the show, which took about two and a half hours.
Huynh: I worked closely with the designer and the marketing team of the press department. I designed pamphlets and promotional materials for different areas such as kids’ coloring materials. I attended book acquisition meetings, which served as great learning experiences.
Norha: I walked into the office and was assigned a case that I could help support. It was hands-on, which I wasn’t expecting at first. My responsibilities involved communicating with and supporting attorneys, gathering information and watching court cases.
Wilson Jr.: With my team, a lot of time was spent collaborating with different departments and teams. I worked a lot with the engineering, revenue and business planning teams. There was time set up to meet with senior leaders and to spend time getting to know my internship program cohort.
What was the most memorable or valuable part of your internship?
Lundsten: Over the summer, I traveled to Iowa to surprise my colleagues at a barbeque that was hosted as a community event. It was memorable because I was able to see the impact of what I had been doing on-air. I met the people who come after and before me on-air. I hadn’t met them before because we were in different locations and working remotely, so that was a cool experience.
Huynh: I valued getting to know people and being a part of a tight-knit team. I had lots of access to my supervisor and learned about the industry. I learned the little things that you don’t really learn anywhere else except for when working directly at an organization.
Norha: I really enjoyed my coworkers from other schools and how we had a shared interest in law. I enjoyed being in an environment where there was a lot of people to learn from and connect with. Being in the courtroom when verdicts were read was memorable and impactful.
Wilson Jr.: I gained friendships and professional connections that will help me throughout my career. I enjoyed Seattle and being a part of things like hiking and exploring the area.
What is something new you learned about yourself or about the working world?
Lundsten: I learned that I liked bouncing ideas back and forth with my colleagues. I had to learn how to do things differently and to learn to be okay with being uncomfortable. I also realized that I enjoy pulling stories together, relating to people and having my own unique flair on topics.
Huynh: I learned to connect illustration and typography and how that relates to publishing. I learned that it’s not always about what I might like, but what a book’s audience might like instead. I learned to adjust my design style. My goal is to have an in-house design job after graduation ideally in a publishing setting like my internship.
Norha: This experience solidified my interest in attending law school. I gained communication skills and had the opportunity to be responsible for things that felt incredibly important, which was an experience that challenged me. My beliefs about the criminal justice system changed through this experience a bit and I deepened my interest in trial law.
Wilson Jr.: My experience this summer taught me a lot about myself. It allowed me to explore what I want to do. After this summer, I learned I enjoy working within finance in the tech industry. I also learned about networking with different people and how to be a young professional who brushes up on and adds to their professional skillset.
Based on your experience, what advice do you have for other students about succeeding in future internships?
Lundsten: I think the best thing someone can do is to be persistent and to build relationships. To be successful in radio, you have to be passionate. You have to be willing to learn from anybody about anything. It’s important to be open to different ideas and opportunities.
Huynh: You should look for things that match your interests but also think about how you match opportunities. I also think cultural background is important in the workplace. It’s important to think about how you can draw upon your experiences to relate to others. Your identity really matters and it’s important to try and show who you are.
Norha: I recommend utilizing your school’s career resources. I went to the career exploration office and they offered me guidance. I also recommend applying to things you’re highly interested in that you think will be a great fit rather than applying to everything and anything.
Wilson Jr.: My big thing was challenging myself to be uncomfortable, so that as time went on, I learned from those experiences. I think that builds you to be a better professional and a person. Every single week, I pushed myself to explore more about myself and my capabilities, so I would say don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone and grow.