Advice from a Career Ambassador: Planning Gap Years Post-Graduation

By: Sean McCarthy, NCA Career Ambassador

My Name is Sean McCarthy and I am a Junior,IMG_4336 double majoring in Psychology and Theatre with a minor in Legal Studies. I have worked at the NCA as a career ambassador for the past year. I decided to interview one of the Career Counselors at NCA, Jeff Jenkins, who helps students navigate important career decisions, including choosing a major, evaluating interests and exploring different industries to learn more about gap year planning.

What is a Gap Year?

While everyone may define a “gap year” differently, The Gap Year Association defines a gap year as, “A semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and prior to career or post-secondary education, in order to deepen one’s practical, professional, and personal awareness.” Gap years are not a cure all for post-graduation/job search stress, but can be a great fit for some students. Gap years, like any life decision, bring with them potential pros and cons, and it is important to plan and evaluate them in the context of your current situation and goals for the future. To help with this evaluation process, NCA highly recommends meeting with a career counselor or adviser, who can help you determine if taking a gap year is a good fit for you and your career goals. You don’t need to know what you want, or what questions to ask in order to swing by the NCA office for an appointment. Below are just a few ways students have utilized their time during a gap year:

  • Traveling domestically or internationally
  • Participating in gap year specific programs (targeted at recent grads who may have an interest in supporting a particular cause, volunteering, teaching or traveling both within the U.S. and abroad)
  • Gaining experience to apply for graduate or professional programs
  • Preparing for and taking entrance exams for graduate or professional programs
  • Engaging in fellowships, research or other time-bound opportunities that help a student gain new experience, insights or explore a particular field (NOTE: some employers will even defer offers for the duration of a program to allow students to participate in something like a Fulbright, for example)

Essentially gap years do not mean time unutilized- they are rather, time spent engaging in opportunities that continue to support your goals, but may not fit the “typical” definition of a first job post-graduation.

Gap Year Pros

What a gap year looks like and what sort of long term benefits they provide differs greatly depending on your individual goals. Benefits to a gap year could be: traveling abroad, exploring a new culture, discovering new interests, building experience and more. During a Law Career Trek I attended this spring, I spoke with several litigators for a private law firm in Chicago, all of whom highly recommended taking a year before law school to work as a clerk or a paralegal before applying to law school. Some students might simply need time off from the pressures of academics to be given the opportunity to introspect on exactly what they want in the future. How you choose to spend a gap year is flexible, but it is especially important to set clear and achievable goals for your gap year as early as possible.

Potential Barriers

It is also important to be realistic about gap year planning. Financial constraints are one example of a factor that should be taken into account. If you are considering travel, looking for a part-time or remote job could save a lot of money. If you are considering graduate school, see what sorts of benefits your potential program could offer in terms of grants, stipends or scholarships. Additionally, if you are taking a gap year post graduation, be sure to check the NCA Career Guide for information on industry hiring timelines. Knowing when an industry hires could help you to plan around when the roles you are targeting will be available.

Steps for Success

If taking a gap year is something you are interested in, your first step should be to take some time to reflect on what you would want from your gap year. During a discussion with Jeff Jenkins, one of the NCA career counselors, he told me that he often meets with students asking for guidance during their spring quarter of senior year. According to Jeff, what’s important is that the students are seeking help in the first place. And while students at NU still have access to NCA 1:1 advising services for six months after they graduate, he advised students to take advantage of NCA’s resources while they are still on campus.


#InternsofNU Spotlight: Encyclopedia Britannica


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By Emma Kumer

Emma Kumer is a junior double-majoring in Journalism and Creative Writing through the Medill School of Journalism with a certificate in design.

Photo of blog author, Emma, at her desk at Encyclopedia Britannica

Describe your summer internship.

This past summer, I was responsible for finding primary sources for various historical topics on Encyclopedia Britannica‘s educational database. I looked through diary entries from World War I, confidential letters from the Cold War, and drafts of treaties. Every day was something different, from the Seven Years’ War to The Seminoles to Simon Cowell.

Explain how you learned about the opportunity. What resources were especially helpful in your internship search?

I actually found this opportunity through MedillLink (now Handshake)! I applied to more internships than I can count (it was probably close to 60), but it was really important for me to find one that was both paid AND in Chicago.

What did you enjoy most about the experience?

The summer before last I worked twenty minutes from my house in Wisconsin, so commuting downtown from Evanston to Chicago every day was a new experience! I absolutely loved working in such a bright, busy city – exploring the area on my lunch breaks was an unanticipated perk. Our office even took all the interns on a boat ride down the Chicago River for the Fourth of July, which was one of my favorite experiences. Other good ones include reading John Wilkes Booth’s diary (who knew he was such a good writer?) and leafing through hundreds of pages from the Official History of the Bay of Pigs Invasion… with notes from the CIA scribbled in the margins!

What is the biggest takeaway from your internship?

I had to do a lot of digging on the Internet to find sources that were available for use, but I’m now a self-proclaimed Public Domain expert. There are so many resources out there that are available for anyone to re-purpose and reuse… you just have to know where to find them. While working with rights and permissions isn’t the most exciting job in the world, I’m no longer scared to try and find images or documents to supplement the work I produce. This definitely would have come in handy when I was taking Media Law and Ethics!

What advice do you have for students pursuing internships that will help them be most successful?

Get to know your coworkers! As an intern, it can be sort of daunting to talk to the adults in the office — especially if they’ve been working there 18 years and you’ve been working there 18 days. I made an effort to be friendly with my desk neighbors all summer, and it definitely paid off: when I mentioned I was going on a Medill trip to Japan at the end of the summer, my coworkers gave me a stack of books and TONS of incredible advice! At the end of the summer, I also gave handwritten thank-you notes to my bosses and coworkers as well, including my non-work email, so we could stay in touch. I think people really appreciate the little things… and it’s always nice to know you have people to reach back out to in the future!

#InternsofNU Spotlight: Engineering Consulting Services Mid-Atlantic


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By Grace Eder

Grace is a junior in McCormick majoring in Environmental Engineering and minoring in Creative Writing.

Describe your summer internship.

At ECS, my title was “Environmental Intern,” although it could just as easily have been “Private-Eye Detective.” A lot of my work, whether in the office or out in the field, felt like an investigation. I helped out with Phase I and II Environmental Site Assessments, in which we tell clients if a property has environmental contamination and advise them on remediation. For a Phase I, I would dig through historic aerial images, research US geology data, visit the site in-person to snap photos, and interview people with knowledge of the area. For a Phase II, I would characterize soil from borings in the ground, field-screen samples for contamination, install monitoring wells to collect groundwater, package soil and water samples for lab analysis, and compare lab results to threshold levels that the EPA determines.

Explain how you learned about the opportunity. What resources were especially helpful in your internship search?

I attended a talk by a Northwestern alum who worked at ECS Chicago for several years post-graduation. She shared some great stories about her experience there. When I reached out to her, she connected me with recruiters in the Mid-Atlantic office and gave me advice on my application. I am so grateful for her help and her friendship.

What did you enjoy most about the experience?

When an engineer hits rocky road, she does not say, “okay, I give up.” She says, “It is what it is. Now how can I improve it?” I heard those words over and over this summer. I admired the grit and perseverance of my coworkers. I also appreciated the female representation in my office and the support from strong professional women.

What is the biggest takeaway from your internship?

There is no such thing as a “typical” day at ECS. I spent a few of the summer days in the air-conditioned office to learn about behind-the-scenes project management. Otherwise, I bounced around to many different sites: elementary schools, abandoned penitentiaries, university hospitals, auto repair shops, construction excavations, and shopping centers. The wide range made me more flexible and open-minded, two qualities that are important for any career.

What advice do you have for students pursuing internships that will help them be most successful?

Put your phone aside and immerse yourself in the experience. Learn as much as possible from the people around you; they all have stories to share.

Advice from a Career Ambassador: Nonprofit and Government Internship Search Student Panel

By: Madeline Meyer, NCA Career AmbassadorIMG_4312

My name is Madeline Meyer and I am a recent graduate who studied Social Policy and Gender and Sexuality Studies. I have worked at Northwestern Career Advancement (NCA) for the past 2 ½ quarters with a focus on connecting students interested in the social impact world with the plethora of opportunities and experiences offered at NCA.

Recently, I moderated the “Nonprofit and Government Internship Search Student Panel” held on Wednesday, April 17th, 2019. The purpose of this panel was to explore three main topics: exploration/networking, the search and application process, and making the most of the internship experience. Furthermore, this panel aimed to demonstrate the diversity of industries and job types NCA helps students connect with, while highlighting the unique processes of finding an internship in the nonprofit or government sectors.   



How did you find people to connect with to start exploring opportunities in the social impact sector? What resources did you use?

First, it is never too early to start networking! Northwestern alumni are involved in a wide range of industries all over the country, and even all over the globe. More often than not, they are excited to connect with undergraduate students to talk about their professional experiences and offer advice.

There are a couple of different resources to help connect with alumni:

  • Our Northwestern: Our Northwestern is an online portal you can use to search for Northwestern Alumni. Search the directory by alumni name, school, major, employer, industry or city to find alumni working within the nonprofit or government sectors.
  • LinkedIn: By searching Northwestern University, and clicking on the alumni tab, you can connect with over 130,000 alumni, filtered by location, industry, and major.
  • NEXT: The Northwestern Externship Program (NEXT) is a one-day shadowing program offering current Northwestern students the opportunity to accompany alumni on the job in order to learn more about different professional fields. You can also use the Northwestern Mentorship Network (the same platform NEXT uses) to connect with alumni interested in mentoring students at any time.

Once you’ve identified an alumni connection, don’t be afraid to email and ask for an informational interview. Check out the NCA Career Guide (page 8) for a list of informational interview questions. Remember, networking doesn’t need to be scary – it’s just a conversation!

Search and Application Process: 

How did you prepare for interviews? How are social impact interviews different from for-profit interviews?

First, within the nonprofit and government sectors, interviews are predominantly behavioral based. Example questions include: “tell me about a time you led a project”, “tell me about a time you worked with a difficult person”, “tell me about a time you failed”, and the classic “tell me about yourself.” Therefore, much of the preparation is self reflective. Think back to your experiences in the classroom, extracurriculars, or internships/jobs to help craft your story: who are you, what have you done, and how will you contribute to furthering the organization. Check out a complete list of sample questions and advice to prepare in the NCA Career Guide (page 31).

Second, demonstrate your passion for the mission of the organization. Nonprofit work in particular is extremely mission driven. Therefore, you must show how and why you align with the organization’s values. You can find this information on most nonprofit websites under “Our Mission” or “Our Values.”

Third, research, research, research. Particularly for government internships, it is important that you remain up to date on current events. While no department is expecting you to walk in with an in-depth understanding of the complexities of government bureaucracies, they will expect you to have a general understanding of what the department does, recent large decisions, and how this department affects the American people.

Lastly, sign up for a mock interview with an alum or NCA staff member (via Handshake)! Depending on the quarter, alumni interviews may focus on any career field or a few, specific sectors, and you can schedule an interview prep session or mock interview with NCA any time appointments are available. Alumni and NCA staff provide you with feedback on your behavioral interview.

Making the Most of the Experience:

What advice would you give yourself now looking back on your internship search?

Don’t limit yourself. Your undergraduate experience is the time for exploration, so don’t cut off opportunities because they are unfamiliar. Apply to a range of diverse experiences that spark your interest, and push yourself to try new things. Talk with people in different sectors of the social impact world, and people with different kinds of job functions. Explore, explore, explore.

Once in your internship, what did you do to stand out as an exemplary employee?

Show up on time! It might sound simple and straightforward, but arriving on time to work and meetings demonstrates a level of respect for your boss, coworkers, and dedication to the company as a whole. Second, say “Yes”, within your limits and comfort, to new projects, tasks, and responsibilities. Similar to the internship application process, don’t cut off experiences once you’re in the internship. Take an opportunity to learn a new skill or a new piece of information.

Lastly, get to know your coworkers! While setting up coffee chats with people in different departments to get to know more about them, their background, and what they do, is very beneficial, remember to also get to know your coworkers as individual people. You spend 40 hours of your week at work, so it’s important to create friendships as well!

Final Notes

Stay up to date on all things NCA and social impact by selecting industries such as non-profit, government, politics, NGO, etc. as your industry interests in your Handshake profile. You will then be sent the “NCA Nonprofit, Government, and Policy” newsletter. These newsletters highlight upcoming networking events, informational sessions, internships, jobs, and off campus opportunities.

Lastly, stop by my office hours on Tuesdays from 7-9 p.m. in Willard Fran’s Cafe or daily express advising (2-4 p.m., Library Core) for resume reviews, questions about the Handshake system and guidance to access other NCA resources. I look forward to seeing you there!

#InternsofNU Spotlight: KTAL NBC-6 News


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By Lucia Boyd

Lucia is a sophomore in the School of Communication majoring in theatre.

Photo of blog author, Lucia, in the KTAL News studio

Describe your summer internship.

I interned at KTAL NBC-6 News. I was a reporter intern, and I went out on stories with reporters to help conduct interviews and shoot film. I helped edit the film on computer software and also wrote web stories and news anchor scripts. Occasionally, I put together my own stories and they aired on live television.

Explain how you learned about the opportunity. What resources were especially helpful in your internship search?

I learned about the opportunity because KTAL NBC-6 News is located in my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. I had already made contacts at this news station through my work in high school, so I utilized that network to get this internship.

What did you enjoy most about the experience?

I most enjoyed going on mini adventures everyday and meeting people all throughout my community. Even though I grew up in Shreveport, I felt like I was exposed to so many more people in my area that I never would have encountered before. The friendliness of the people at the news station and the people in Shreveport is really what made this internship special.

Photo of blog author, Lucia, in KTAL News studioWhat is the biggest takeaway from your internship?

Before this internship, I was interested in journalism, television, and entertainment, however, I did not really understand the significance of local tv news. My biggest takeaway is the slogan of KTAL, “Community Matters,” because I have learned that local stories affect humans just as much as national ones, and that the passions of local people should be shared and bring a community together.

What advice do you have for students pursuing internships that will help them be most successful?

My advice is to think outside of the box! You never know what opportunities there are, even in your own town. Don’t be afraid to go ahead and score an internship after your freshman year of college and utilize the resources you had from high school.

#InternsofNU SIGP Spotlight: Align Income Share Funding


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By Robert Babich

Robert is a senior in the School of Communication, majoring in Communication Studies and Economics with a minor in Transportation & Logistics.

Describe your summer internship.

This past summer I had the privilege of interning at Align Income Share Funding as an Operations Analyst for the startup’s unique product: Income Share Agreements (ISAs). In this role, my responsibilities focused on a wide spectrum of projects ranging from data analysis and cashflow modeling, to preparing pitch materials for prospective investors and collaborating with the executive team on ongoing improvements. Most of my projects involved sifting through data on the day-to-day operations at the company, but I was also given high-responsibility projects pertaining to their ongoing capital raise and reporting for due-diligence materials.

Explain how you learned about the opportunity. What resources were especially helpful in your internship search?

I learned about opportunities through the Chicago Field Studies program this past spring and was intrigued by Align’s customer-friendly product, which offers people a way to break cycles of debt and have alternatives to predatory lenders. My advisor in the CFS program was incredibly helpful after I mentioned my interest in Align, and she encouraged me to express that same interest to the COO—who then interviewed me and gave me an invitation to contribute at Align. The company’s website and other interns’ reviews of the experience were incredibly helpful when it came time to narrow down my choices.

What did you enjoy most about the experience?

At Align, I felt like a valued, trusted member of the team from day one. I enjoyed being assigned to challenging projects and receiving feedback in real time—their willingness to give me hard tasks is what I enjoyed most about my time, as it demonstrated their trust in my abilities. When I was doing something right, it could be implemented right away; when I was doing something wrong, I heard about it and could make corrections quickly.

What is the biggest takeaway from your internship?

My biggest takeaway was to simply ask for what you want. Besides the fact that it shows people around you where your interests lie, it is explicit and encourages action. Make your needs, wants, and roadblocks as clear as possible so that your network can look out for you and your managers can engage problems on your behalf. Ask, so that other people can help you more effectively.

What advice do you have for students pursuing internships that will help them be most successful?

Being entirely authentic about why you’re interested in the company is the first thing I’d suggest—in your initial outreach, make it clear what they do that gets you excited. This will not only make you a more attractive candidate, but if you have an engaged supervisor they’ll be much more likely to find projects that align with these interests. My follow-up to this would be to accent your value, because that’s the ultimate goal of the interview. By coming in with clear examples of your work and how you will continue to produce results, you can spend more time getting to know the other side—what value will this internship provide to you?

As a 2018 Summer Internship Grant Program (SIGP) recipient, how did SIGP impact your summer?

Quite simply, it made my summer possible. Without a SIGP grant, I would not be able to pursue an internship at a socially responsible financial startup like Align. My SIGP grant gave me options to spend the summer developing my skills in a highly instructive workplace instead of grinding through a job simply to cover living expenses.

Advice from a Career Ambassador: The Internship and Job Search Process for International Students

By Allie Adamis and ChrisJon Willis, NCA Career Ambassadors


My name is Allie Adamis, and I am a senior studying Human Development and Psychological Services, French, and Psychology. This is my third year serving as a Career Ambassador for NCA, and I have loved learning about a wide variety of career-related topics throughout my time in the office.

My name is ChrisJon Willis, and I’m a sophomore studying Economics, Political Science, and International Studies. I have been a Career Ambassador for the past two quarters, and I have really enjoyed my time here working for NCA and watching my peers’ confidence in their job search develop throughout the school year.

A topic that particularly interested both of us was the internship and job search process for international students. Finding a career path can certainly be stressful, and for international students, the process can be even more daunting. There are particular challenges that are unique to international students seeking opportunities in the United States, but thankfully, Northwestern offers plenty of resources to support students going through this process. We decided to interview three international students about their experiences securing opportunities in the US in order to showcase the challenges, strategies, and resources most relevant to international students.


We interviewed Christie Jok, a junior from Hong Kong who is a pre-medical student studying Biology and Global Health; Esha Mody, a junior from Mumbai studying Industrial Engineering; and Audrey Wu, a junior from Singapore studying Civil Engineering.

Question 1: Could you briefly describe your internship/job search journey so far?

Christie: I have not had an internship or job in the US yet, but I’m in the processes of looking for one now. It’s pretty difficult to find a job as an international student, especially if you want to do something part-time during the year because of all the rules you have to navigate. Off-campus jobs have to be related to your school work and you have to get approval for them, which is not something that is very advertised or well-known. On-campus jobs are mostly work-study, so if you don’t qualify, then it’s hard to get a job there as well. Overall, it’s challenging to know what you can or can’t apply for and who needs to sign off on you being able to work legally, but I’m starting to get the hang of it. NOTE: See here for information on Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Esha: In my freshman year summer I did not do an internship (I took classes over the summer). Sophomore summer I did an internship at a startup in Mumbai, India (my home country). In my junior year summer, I will be a Business Consultant Intern at Applied Predictive Technologies in Arlington, Virginia.

Audrey: I started looking for my junior year internship in the summer of my sophomore year. As I was not in the US over the summer, I had to set up networking calls with alumni who worked in the industry that I was interested in. These calls helped me understand the recruitment process as well as the industry better such that when I was back on campus in the fall, I was more prepared when attending info sessions, coffee chats and the career fair. Throughout the fall, I attended recruitment related events both on and off campus in order to gain more exposure and expand my network.

Question 2: What has been your greatest challenge throughout your career planning process?

Christie: The biggest challenge I’ve faced is trying to apply to positions in two different countries with different requirements — figuring out what would make me the best candidate in the US versus in Hong Kong. It’s hard to navigate and prioritize both.

Esha: Coming in, I wasn’t very sure about what I wanted to do job-wise. I realized that I wanted to do consulting pretty late, and so I didn’t join any consulting clubs on campus like a lot of my peers. It was hence somewhat of a challenge to get exposure to resources and build my network, but I was able to do this with the help of my friends who were in these consulting clubs.

Audrey: As an international student, one of the greatest challenges was to find companies that were willing to hire international interns. For example, at the NCA Career Fair, there were only 1 or 2 companies (out of the ones I was interested in) that accepted internationals. This meant that I had to look beyond the school’s resources to find other companies that were willing to hire internationals but were not on campus during recruitment season.

Question 3: What resource was most helpful to you and why?

Christie: The Office of International Student & Scholar Services (formerly the International Office). In terms of searching for different internship opportunities, the Office of International Student & Scholar Services has helped me navigate the process of understanding who needs to sign off on what and has been clear on the types of policies that are involved regarding employment, including where you can work, the qualification requirements, etc. I haven’t been to NCA yet, but I can tell that the services there will also be helpful for my job search regarding opportunities in the US.

Esha: Family and friends. Don’t be too proud to use connections to get internships, especially in freshman and sophomore year. Even for my junior year internship, I used my friends and family as resources, be it connections or to prep with. Older siblings/cousins/peers in the field you want to go into are a huge resource. My brother is a consultant, and he was a massive help in my job search during my junior year fall quarter.

Audrey: The alumni network (OurNorthwestern or LinkedIn). The alumni directory is rather easy to use and from there, I have made many connections with alumni who are currently working in companies that I was interested in. I sent them emails looking to set up phone calls and many of them responded to these emails. Alumni with shared experiences at NU help make the entire recruitment process a little friendlier and less daunting. They were also useful in helping me connect to the right resources in the company.

Question 4: What advice do you have for current international students as they engage in their career planning process?

Christie: I recommend going to the Office of International Student & Scholar Services and figuring out what you qualify for and if there are ways to make things work for you in your career plan. During my time here, I have also realized that I can do some off-campus jobs, so there are ways to still get that experience under a different name.

Esha: Try not to be too discouraged, and try to be positive. It’s definitely very hard to get a job as an international, with fewer and fewer companies willing to hire interns. That said, also be realistic and make sure you also have enough back up plans. Also, make sure you are organized and are keeping track of which companies hire internationals and when they will be coming to campus/when deadlines are. Don’t be afraid to ask upperclassmen for help, especially fellow internationals.

Audrey: Talk to as many upperclassmen and alumni as you can. Be strategic about it and start with people that either have similar experiences as you on campus or with people that are currently working in industries you are most interested in. Find out what made them successful and what advice they may have for you in the recruitment process. Be sincere, attentive and most people are more than happy to help a fellow Wildcat!

Final Notes:

Competing in the current job market can be a challenging endeavor for international students; however, it is important to remember that Northwestern offers resources for those in the internship and job search process.

At Northwestern Career Advancement (NCA) you can find career advisors and counselors who provide 1:1 holistic career counseling and advising for students considering attending graduate school or entering the workforce.

During express advising hours in Main Library and walk-in hours at select locations on campus, NCA staff and Career Ambassadors are available to help students build resumes, write cover letters, prepare for interviews, utilize Northwestern’s alumni network, and conduct job searches in a variety of industries.

For international students, the Office of International Student & Scholar Services can provide insight on relevant job and internship regulations and information on additional authorization documents that are necessary for taking advantage of off-campus employment opportunities.

#InternsofNU Spotlight: Shedd Aquarium


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By Isabel Hoffman

Isabel is a senior in the School of Education and Social Policy studying social policy.

Photo of blog author, Isabel, and her colleagues, at the Shedd Aquarium

Describe your summer internship.

This past summer I was at Shedd Aquarium interning as a major and annual giving development intern. At Shedd, I gained experience in strategic planning, donor communication, as well as donor cultivation, solicitation, stewardship, and prospect research. My projects ranged from data analysis and research to event planning and stewardship report writing. This included writing quarterly updates about Shedd’s inhabitants for our Adopt-An-Animal program, writing stewardship reports to update major donors about the impact of their contribution to Shedd’s mission, conducting cost-benefit analysis on our non-membership donation avenues, and cross checking donation’s fund stream allocation and critical donor capacity assessment.

Explain how you learned about the opportunity. What resources were especially helpful in your internship search?

Being a local from Chicago and an admirer of the institution, I discovered Shedd’s internship opportunities by checking their website. However, other Northwestern students have gotten connected to Shedd through doing Chicago Field Studies. NCA proved invaluable to me in my summer internship search. From reviewing my cover letters and resumes to offering alumni practice interviews, I appreciate the abundance of resources that were at my disposal.

What did you enjoy most about the experience?

I thoroughly enjoyed the Shedd community! From my colleagues who became mentors to the mammals and sea life we had right downstairs, I appreciated getting immersed in the Shedd family. My incredible supervisor, John, made sure to include me every step of the way, inviting me to team meetings and donor tours, as well as Development team outings — whether that be attending a corporate sponsor’s event (like Vienna Beef’s 125th anniversary Hot Dog Fest!!) or just spending lunch petting the sting rays. We also conducted a combined tour and ask for a prospect who came into Shedd, which was a valuable experience. It was great being surrounded by aquatic life, sometimes through fun programming and other times just accidental encounters, and I learned so much about conservation and ecology.

Photo of blog author Isabel's Shedd Aquarium name tag, with the view of the Shedd in the backdrop

What is the biggest takeaway from your internship?

The biggest takeaway I got from my internship is to get involved! It can be intimidating to walk into a meeting not knowing anyone, go to a team outing during your first week, or invite a fellow intern you don’t know that well to lunch, but the value of these connections will surprise you. They can help improve your professional knowledge, give you a better idea of possible career paths, or get you involved in a new project.

What advice do you have for students pursuing internships that will help them be most successful?

Be critical. You don’t have to accept an internship if it doesn’t seem right for you. I’ve had great internship experiences and I’ve had a few stinkers. What I’ve found to be most useful is to be critical and questioning. Asking what types of things interns have done in the past, the type of support they receive, and things along those lines will definitely make you happier and more successful in the long run.

#InternsofNU: NBC Nightly News


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By Joey Safchik

Joey is a sophomore studying journalism in Medill with minors in international studies and theatre.

Photo of blog author, Joey, practicing a stand-up at a state park as part of her NBC internship.

Photo of blog author, Joey, with Nightly News anchor, Lester Holt.Describe your summer internship.

I spent last summer interning for NBC News in their LA bureau. My primary responsibilities were for Nightly News with Lester Holt, but I was also lucky enough to work for the Today Show and the weekend editions of both of those programs. A typical day included transcribing interviews, making phone calls, scanning social media and watching the show from the control room. And I also had the incredible opportunity to go out on several shoots, where I observed producers and correspondents and even got to contribute to interviews!

Explain how you learned about the opportunity. What resources were especially helpful in your internship search?

I found this internship online. It was really useful to keep a spreadsheet with all of the internships in which I was interested and my progress applying to them. Also…take advantage of the faculty and other students at NU! A Medill student had this position last year, so I could have easily heard about it from her.

What did you enjoy most about the experience?Photo of blog author, Joey, with a producer and correspondent from NBC.

It’s not everyday that you get to hang out with a reporter you’ve admired since high school, so I just adored getting to take advantage of the company I was keeping. I got to go out on shoots with incredibly respected producers and correspondents and spend hours asking them anything and everything about what they do and why they do it.

What is the biggest takeaway from your internship?

As I mentioned, it was the relationships that meant the most to me. While I did gain really pragmatic skills with software or news jargon, my biggest takeaway came from the conversations I had. For example, I was with a veteran producer (who also happened to be my supervisor) on a shoot, and he told me to always pay close attention to the interview, because you never know how much a smile or raised-eyebrow might enhance a story. It was these little tidbits of advice and anecdotes from successful people that I will remember for a long time!

What advice do you have for students pursuing internships that will help them be most successful?

Write everything down!!! The real world moves very quickly, so it will behoove you to write down anything that you might want to later recall. This includes tasks you have to complete, but also things you observe or advice you are given that might help inspire you later. Also, be proactive and confident. People are not as intimidating as you may believe, and they wouldn’t have you there if they didn’t want to support you.

Advice from a Career Ambassador: Finding an internship from abroad

By Ben Chase, NCA Career AmbassadorPhoto of Author, Ben Chase

My name is Ben Chase, and I am a junior year career ambassador studying English Literature, Psychology, and Integrated Marketing Communications.

Finding an Internship Abroad

When a student elects to study abroad, they are putting themselves on a route filled with change—change of country, language, food, culture, etc. All of this change can be intimidating. and the last thing most students want to worry about while adjusting abroad is finding an internship at home for the upcoming summer. In fact, this fear leads many students to assume that they should not study abroad, to avoid putting themselves in a situation where they are unable to secure an internship. This assumption is incorrect—worry about getting an internship should not be a deterrent to a student’s desire to study away from Northwestern. I say this as a living, breathing point to the contrary; I got an internship for this upcoming summer, while I was studying in Uruguay this fall. In this blog post, I will explain best tips and practices for students applying for internships in the US while studying abroad. The overview will be inclusive of all industries, but will also include some industry specific information.

Understand the Timeline

Before getting into the weeds of what applying from abroad requires, you should understand if applying from abroad will be necessary at all. To accomplish this, familiarize yourself with NCA’s recruiting timeline. It’s in the NCA Career Guide, but I’ve posted it below for convenience.


Obviously, the actual physical time that you are abroad matters. For example, if you are studying abroad in the fall and looking specifically at marketing/startup internships, you might not have to worry about applying from abroad at all, as most employers in the industry won’t begin hiring until you have returned (NOTE: While you may not be applying, you may still want to spend time researching or networking while abroad). Depending on which quarters you are away from Northwestern and the industries of interest to you, there is always a chance that some part of the process will occur while you are abroad, so it’s best to be prepared once the situation arises.

You might have noticed that not all industries are represented in the timeline above. If you have questions about recruiting for a specific industry (i.e. finance) meet with your career adviser to learn more. It is also important to keep in mind that while hiring timelines are helpful to understand when you may apply, some employers also hire on an “as-needed” basis, and do not follow consistent timelines each year when hiring.

The Act of Applying

Applying to internships while abroad is not drastically different from applying to internships while on campus. While all of the interviews will be virtual, the actual process of applying remains the same. The tips for maximizing your success in the search abroad are the very same ones that NCA recommends you utilize while at home. Make sure to do your homework: tailor your application materials, use your network, practice for your interview, etc. Again, see the Career Guide for more help and in-depth explanations of these recommendations. While you can meet with NCA staff virtually while abroad, we recommended that you meet with your adviser prior to departing. Similar to when you are on campus, it is wise to plan ahead, especially since the networking and research components should begin before the actual application is submitted.

Handling Logistics

If the application process is mostly the same, what actually changes when you apply from abroad? While I was abroad, the biggest change I noted was the handling of logistics. For example, my apartment in Uruguay had really poor WiFi, and I couldn’t depend on it for a virtual interview. Depending on where you are, WiFi can be the first problem that must be solved to guarantee a successful virtual interview. Remember that the same rules for virtual interviews in the United States apply to virtual interviews abroad, and that means no distractions in the background. To solve my issue, I asked the director of my program if I could do the interview in her apartment. Then, I went a week before the interview and tested the WiFi during a Skype call with my parents to ensure that the connection would hold up. That way, I had plenty of time to find another spot if necessary.

Another logistical factor to consider is clear communication with the potential employers. You should explain to them that you are abroad (also be sure to make note of this on your resume), and as a consequence won’t be available for an in-person interview (unless they want to fly you out as a part of the process or have you go to an office located near where you are studying abroad). Accept that you will be doing the majority of the work to accommodate them into your schedule as a result of time zone differences. Make sure you remember the password to your Skype account, and, if you can’t get texts while you’re abroad, disable multi-factor authentication. See this blog post about the recruiting process for consulting opportunities for other recommendations on handling the logistics of a job search while abroad.

Since a virtual interview is still an interview, you should have the clothes necessary to look professional while you complete the interview, as well as a clean background without distracting elements. Virtual interviews are different than in-person interviews—the best practice is to look into the camera while speaking. This isn’t a natural adjustment, and even though I had the knowledge of what I was supposed to do, I had to practice a bit to stop my eyes from wandering. If you tend to look at yourself in the little box in the corner of the screen, you can disable that box to minimize distracting yourself and help keep your eyes on the camera.

Your Time

Applying for an internship requires a time commitment, a commodity which can be rare and valuable for students studying at Northwestern. Before I left to go abroad, I never could have imagined having the time and wherewithal to handle the application process while also living and taking care of myself in a foreign country. In the end, however, I was less stressed out and more able to dedicate myself to the process than I would have been at Northwestern. That’s because the academic expectations of my program and the pace of life in Uruguay were different than here in the United States. Every study abroad program has distinct expectations, but you should be aware that you may also find that you have more free time abroad and therefore more time to apply for internships.

While going abroad can be intimidating for a lot of reasons, there is no reason that it should affect your chances of securing an internship for the following summer. By using these tips, I firmly believe that any Northwestern student has the ability to find their summer internship while abroad. Feel free to schedule an appointment with your career adviser via Handshake if you have any more questions about the process or want more specific industry tips.