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Exploring something new

Being a first-generation student in the internship/job search comes with hesitation and some fear. Before coming to Harvard, I never had to search for these roles. I was rather unequipped in how to do the job search right. In college, internships were a different story. They are highly encouraged, as they provide work experience, greater understanding of your field of interest–whether you enjoy something or decide to explore other fields–and the invaluable experience of meeting influential leaders in different sectors. Here are some of my experiences of interning as a Harvard student!

Where do I start?

Every school year is different. Different interests, strategies, and approach. A few things stay constant–narrowing your fields of interest and preferred location. My freshman year I knew I wanted to be close to home. Every position I looked for focused on local politics, nonprofits, or general public service in the Boston area. Specifying the location helped me narrow my search. The later years–sophomore and junior–were more targeted on what I was interested in, such as nonprofit management or national advocacy work. This search led to me to apply for jobs in New York, DC, and Boston. 

Who can help?

Harvard offers an incredible network of professionals, career advisors, and offices that can guide through the internship process and point you to the right connections. My sophomore year I went to the OCS, Office of Career Services, to discuss potential options after one internship fell through. Later in my junior, I was fortunate to receive an internship through CPIC, the Center for Public Interest Careers. CPIC aims at building relationships with public service leaders and organizations to bring them on campus and connect them to Harvard students first. That summer, I worked at a nonprofit development and fundraising organization located in Downtown Boston.

How do I pay for this?

Perhaps my greatest concern was figuring out, how do I pay for this summer? Many public service internships are unpaid or offer only a small stipend. Choosing a different city to work in meant paying for a summer apartment, groceries, and travel. Thankfully, several offices at Harvard are set up to grant stipends and aid for students going into public service or low-paying nonprofit internships. I was fortunate to receive stipends several times from the Institute of Politics and CPIC to complete my summer opportunities. 

My biggest takeaways

The past three years have led me to internships in various fields–from law and government to nonprofit management. I am immensely thankful for the connections forged by Harvard offices and more specifically, for the knowledge and awareness all these internships provided. Entering the ‘real world’ job search, I am little more grounded and focused on what matters to me. Long story short, you probably won’t love every internship you have throughout college. But each experience is a learning one, giving insight into what industries you’re interested in and adding to your work experience.

Where to now…

With most of the public service applications open in the spring, I’ve spent most of the fall going to career fairs and simply imagining all that is yet to come. As I embark on my senior year job search, I am filled with gratitude and excitement. My experiences with the IOP and CPIC leave me confident that there are countless organizations excited to welcome Harvard graduates and confident in my own abilities to make change. 


About the author

Hi! My name is Gaby and I am senior in Lowell House, concentrating in Government with a secondary in Psychology. I’m originally from Brazil, but have spent most of my life in Florida and... View full profile

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