Learn some resourceful information to help CSUF students find their way to finding and keeping the right internship.
Written by: Taylor Engle | Photos by: Chelena Gadson
Most graduate students know about the frantic feeling of stress that goes hand in hand with searching for the mandatory internship. It’s a pretty notorious fact that if you’re entering your senior year there’s no turning back: You’re going to have to put yourself out there. Whether you like it or not, you have to enter into your field of study as an actual functioning member for at least 120 hours and see if all of these credits, all the late nights in the library, all of the Ramen noodles and gallons of coffee were actually worth it. You have to throw yourself into the lion’s den, that is “the real world” and find out once and for all if you have what it takes. It’s a requirement people in most majors have to endure and it’s one that you’ll never regret.
Interning isn’t a new concept; Cal State Fullerton has included it as a part of the curriculum for over 40 years. It’s valued as experiential learning — an experience that grants you skills, knowledge and networking opportunities.
“It was really a completely invaluable experience,” said Modern Languages and Literatures Graduate Learning Specialist Denise Schumaker when asked about her experience with the Teaching English to Students of Other Languages teaching practicum, a requirement of all Master’s of Science TESOL students at CSUF. “In fact, I know that many of my peers did not have the same opportunities that I had, being able to teach my own classes under the guidance of seasoned professors while I was still in school. I don’t know how they managed to pass the comprehensive exam or find jobs after.”
Schumaker’s story is one of success; after her experience with the teaching practicum and an additional internship with the English department’s teaching association program, she was hired back as an instructor after her graduation in 2015. Shumaker says these internships helped pave his path toward success.
Luckily for students anxious to find their internship, the university provides multiple resources to aid in your search and selection. In addition to the Center for Internships and Community Engagement (CICE), each school with an internship requirement, including business, psychology, health science, and communications, has representatives to walk students through the process.
Walk into the CICE and you are immediately assisted by one of the staff: supplied with brochures that cater to your major, internship opportunities that have been posted recently, or help figuring out which internship would be the best fit for you.
“Internships are a great high-impact practice because they provide students with valuable experience in their field of interest. The experience gives students both a taste of what they do like and don’t like about prospective careers.”
While the College of Communications has the largest internship program on campus and the most number of students filtering through it each semester, other majors have internships that are just as significant.
“Many students I see go through the TESOL internships get hired back for a permanent position,” said Dr. Janet Eyring, professor of TESOL. “About one-fifth of the students who go through the internship are international students, so English wasn’t their first language to begin with,” said Eyring. “I’ve watched these students become completely transformed.”
The CSUF students who go through the TESOL business internship and/or teaching practicum, which ranges anywhere between 9 and 20 students per semester, come out with real-life experience and tend to be more employable. While their internship requires fewer hours completed, the bulk of it is weighted in lesson planning, grading and consulting with their supervisors.
Regardless of which concentration the internship takes place in, it is vital for students to present themselves in the best manner if they hope to be considered.
“Everything from paper choice to word choice makes all the difference.”
“If someone applies for a position here at the center, I don’t even look at the résumé if it doesn’t have a cover letter,” said Dawn Macy, director of the CICE. Macy explained a successful cover letter should have the specific job title mentioned to be specific. Employers pay close attention to the smallest of details.
“I look for someone who can brand themselves,” said Maya Koshaba, Public Relations specialist. “Everything from paper choice to word choice makes all the difference. An interesting bio that keeps me going from one line to the next gets me every time.”
Thankfully, if a student feels lost when it comes to constructing a cover letter, the CICE offers to review cover letters for free. Across the way from CICE in Langsdorf Hall is the Career Center, which provides workshops in networking, résumés and job searching. While a student may not be ready to look for a career yet, it is still highly recommended to visit these workshops to prepare for an internship.
“In the past, it was easier; you went to college and then you got a job. It’s not like that anymore. Employers are looking for candidates with experience, which can only be gained through interning,” said Macy. “It’s beneficial for both the employer and the intern, though. The intern gets to try on a job for size to see if that’s something they’d really want to do and the employer gets the chance to try out a new hire.”
“Whether speaking with an intern, a professor or an employer, the consistent answer when asked what is the largest benefit that comes out of an internship is: networking. “Office culture is a huge, challenging thing for students to adjust to,” said Macy. “The current generation is good at taking care of themselves, but they find it difficult to fit into the big picture of an office and to see themselves as a critical part of a team — not simply the intern.” Interning helps to build confidence and to practice networking and fitting into this new, confusing environment.”
Koshaba said she “expects dedication and the willingness to make mistakes and own them” from her intern teams throughout her career. “Take critiques, ask questions and showcase what you’ve learned in ongoing assignments,” she said. Koshaba has overseen multiple interns yearly. To stand out in her pool of résumés, an intern must be passionate and eager to learn. “You will only get as much out of the job as you want. It’s up to you. Sometimes learning the bad way to do things is just as important as the learning the right ways, because you can see consequences immediately.”
While Koshaba never interned herself when she attended college, she wishes she had had the opportunity. “My first two jobs out of college were like building the plane while flying it; I was just thrown out there.”
Whether the internship you land is the opportunity of your dreams or a complete nightmare, it’s beneficial for the simple fact that it gears you for the real world. Interning helps you discover what you will like and dislike in an actual career and whether or not you’re on the right path.
“The best part is that at the end of your internship, you can relate the skills you’ve learned to an actual career. Every step of your internship is similar to the step of getting a real job,” said Macy. “You’re given the chance to interpret what you did into real life.”