Oberlin Blogs

Summer Internships

March 14, 2022

Charlize Villasenor ’23

It’s fairly well known that the summer after junior year is a crucial time for students. During this summer, many take up internships that will influence where they are employed or attend graduate school after they graduate from college. I’m going to give an overview of what this process was like for me, especially as I changed my career path somewhat recently and I do not come from a major city with many internships in my desired field.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, for years I intended to go straight into law school after I finished my undergraduate education. In the last year, I realized I had a great interest in data analytics, modeling statistical and econometric findings, and describing how that can influence the world in terms of legal or company policy. That means I went from looking for legal-focused internships to analysis-focused internships midway through my academic career. In spring 2021 I interned at RCA Records and worked closely with the in-house attorney, and in January and February 2022, I interned at Coalition for Economic Survival and worked as a tenant organizer which consisted of a lot of meetings and outreach calls. Both of these were great experiences, but I knew I needed to find an analytics-focused internship for the coming summer. I interviewed with SEO Career, a group separate from Oberlin College, in hopes that I would be admitted into their program and they would assist me in finding an internship for summer 2022 that fit my needs. I was admitted to their program and was immediately met with opportunities to learn more about the field I was interested in, have practice interviews, get my resume revised, and more. What was most helpful about this experience was the fact that SEO has dozens of partner companies who are looking to hire interns affiliated with SEO. I was able to apply to positions from many different companies, and my resume was sent to employers who would be interested in me. Although typically I don’t like to show off what opportunities I have until things are set in stone or have already been completed, I’ll say that some large companies such as Discover, CitiBank, Cognizant, Bloomberg, Progressive, and more were interested in me. 

Some of these employers reached out to me, and I reached out to others. I was taking advantage of all the different platforms I could. I was active on LinkedIn, Handshake, Indeed, and Thrive; I reached out to previous supervisors to enquire about possible internships. I wanted to make sure that I could get the best offer possible. Since I knew I was aiming for a summer internship, I decided to participate in the Junior Practicum which would allow me to make the most of my internship and become a better intern. This meant I would be taking a one-credit course that meets once a week with other third-year students who were also interested in business, finance, or consulting, and I could receive money to pursue a summer internship. Though I didn’t take this route, the Career Development Center was also matching students to internships through their alumni network, so even if I hadn’t been as proactive, I still would have landed an internship. 

As I stated earlier, I applied to dozens of internships. I kept a set of guidelines in my mind as to what I wanted, and made sure I was putting myself out there but still ensuring I’d be somewhere comfortable. The major cities where I have a network of family or friends are Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, so I applied to plenty of internships in these cities, especially because there tend to be more opportunities in my field in these cities. I also applied to positions in Dallas, Austin, Boston, the Bay Area, and more, just so I could have more opportunities to choose from. I needed to work a paid internship, so that was non-negotiable for me. I first thought I wanted $15 an hour, then I received an offer for $19 an hour and realized I might have been undervaluing myself. I wanted my next offer to be at least $20 and I would be ecstatic if it was $25 and hour, but I was pleasantly surprised when the details of my next offer became available and I saw I would be making right under $30 an hour for regular compensation, about $43 an hour for overtime, and I would receive a $2000 relocation bonus. It made me realize that I was severely undervaluing myself, and I have the capability, confidence, and connections to land roles where wages like this are possible. I’ll admit I cried a bit after I received the call where my recruiter extended the offer. Coming from a family where compensation like this comes after years and years of experience, I felt a bit overwhelmed. I asked myself, “why do I get this offer when I’m still a student, while my parents had to work for years and years to make an amount comparable?” I had conflicting feelings about accepting the offer; I still haven’t technically accepted it, but I’m leaning towards doing so. Even though I’m excited to work in my field of choice, explore a new city and state, and be paid quite well, I also feel guilty for not spending the summer with my family. I love El Paso, and I want to be home, but I also understand that this opportunity isn’t available in El Paso, and the whole reason I went to Oberlin was to create new opportunities for myself. I never really suffered from imposter syndrome, but I felt a sense of guilt knowing that I have opportunities that were never made available to my parents or grandparents no matter how hard they worked. At the end of the day, I know it is in my best interest to accept the offer I’ve been given, even if it means making hard choices like being away from my family for some time.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering which company has extended this offer and what the role is, so I’ll give a little bit of background. After connecting with this company through SEO Career, three interviews and a case study, I have been offered a position as an Internal Audit Summer Intern at CitiBank in Tampa, Florida, for summer 2022. After my internship, I will have the opportunity to transition into a full-time two-year role after I graduate, since CitiBank only hires as many interns as they need to fill the two-year role that follows rather than overhiring interns and forcing them to compete for a full-time role. In my internship, I will be analyzing internal systems and practices to make day-to-day operations run smoothly and efficiently. Not bad for a girl who got a C in ECON 101 and still made it her major. 

Ultimately, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support and love of my family and friends, but I also want to emphasize that I wouldn’t be where I am today without Oberlin. After having a rough high school experience, finding community and defining myself at Oberlin built up my confidence and prepared me to accept opportunities and adventures with open arms. I’m excited for the next adventure I face and hope I can write something exciting about it at the end of summer!

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