Sophomore year means taking a lot of important steps — declaring a major, crafting an academic and cocurricular game plan, exploring potential career paths, and so much more. The Sophomore Practicum program was developed to help guide sophomores through this process and put them in positions to succeed.
During the 2020–21 academic year, the Sophomore Practicum has two primary components, both remote: the Winter Term SOAR retreat during January, and the funded micro-internship experience throughout the rest of the spring semester. Both pieces come together to help students connect their academic and career interests and put them into action.
In the past, the Sophomore Opportunities and Academic Resources (SOAR) retreat took place over two days right before classes began in the spring. During the 2020–21 academic year, the program has expanded to meet the needs of students building their academic and co-curricular plans in the context of COVID-19 and Oberlin’s three-semester plan. Now called the Sophomore Practicum, the program encompasses a monthlong retreat in January and funded micro-internships throughout the spring.
- January: The SOAR retreat takes place Jan 5–29 and counts for Winter Term credit
- February–April: All interested students receive funding for a micro-internship opportunity. Students can choose to be matched with an internship through the program or to identify their own opportunity.
All interested sophomores who will not be enrolled in the spring semester are eligible to participate in both components of the Sophomore Practicum. Only the SOAR retreat in January is required for students to receive Winter Term credit, but we recommend students complete both components in order to make the most of their practicum experience and be eligible for funding. More information about each of the program’s components is included below.
The Sophomore Practicum program was originally designed to offer experiential learning opportunities (i.e. internships, research projects, etc.) to students during their spring semester away from Oberlin. Due to F-1 visa regulations, many sophomore international students will be enrolled in classes during the spring semester. Sophomore F-1 visa holders who enroll in the SOAR retreat are eligible to defer their micro-internship experience and $800 funding until Summer 2021 or their first semester off from Oberlin.
We recognize that many second-year students have not yet declared their major. If you will be using Curricular Practical Training (CPT) in the US, that authorization requires students to complete their CPT experience in their major field of study and receive an I-20 with CPT authorization before you can begin the work. Deferring your micro-internship experience to the summer will allow additional time to accommodate these requirements and provide you with time to focus on your coursework during the Spring semester. If you will be completing an internship while you are outside of the US for a company based outside of the US, then CPT is not required, and the work does not need to be strictly linked to your major. If you will be outside of the US but engaging with a US-based company, CPT is still recommended but not strictly required as long as you will not enter the US at any point during the internship. For questions regarding CPT, please contact Josh Whitson at email@example.com.
While we are able to provide funding to support summer micro-internship experience, we are not able to match students with an employer. Therefore, the Career Development Center is partnering with the International Student Resource Center to provide sessions for you on finding and securing your own internship as well as Curricular Practical Training (CPT). These sessions will take place during the SOAR Retreat and throughout the Spring 2021 semester.
- All international students holding an F-1 visa completing internships while present in the US requires authorization through Curricular Practical Training (CPT). CPT authorization requires that students complete their CPT experience in their major field of study and receive an I-20 with CPT authorization before they can begin the work.
- We recognize that many second-year students have not yet declared a major. Therefore, the timing and funding for the micro-internship will take place during the Summer 2021 (or their first semester off from Oberlin).
- Sophomore Practicum micro-internship funding for international students holding an F-1 visa will be deferred until the Summer 2021 term (or their first semester off from Oberlin) so that students can focus on their coursework during the Spring semester. This is in line with federal regulations for F-1 students which require that F-1 students be enrolled full-time during the fall and spring semesters and is an exception being made for international students.
- The Career Development Center and the International Student Resource Center will provide sessions for international students on finding and securing internships as well as Curricular Practical Training (CPT) during the SOAR Retreat and throughout the Spring 2021 semester.
Nathan Carpenter '20
Director, PAL and SOAR Programs
The Sophomore Practicum will kick off with a month-long remote retreat that counts for Winter Term credit. The retreat, which runs January 5–29, will feature a range of presentations and interactive workshops led by staff, faculty, and alumni eager to assist you in the process of envisioning your next steps and give you the tools to make that vision a reality. By the end of the retreat, students will have chosen a major, grown their personal and professional networks, built valuable career development skills, and, if they wish, prepared to pursue a micro-internship opportunity throughout the remainder of the spring semester.
The retreat will have three primary pillars: diversity, equity, and inclusion; grappling with complex problems; and academic preparation and planning. These pillars come together to help students articulate their academic and professional interests and to build better, more inclusive communities of learning.
Prior to the retreat, students will join one of four academic “houses” — Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, or Practicing & Performing Arts. From there, they will be able to explore a range of disciplines and experiential opportunities to narrow in on a specific department or program. By the end of the program, all students will have chosen a major, mapped out an academic and co-curricular plan for the rest of their time at Oberlin, and had the opportunity to connect with older students, faculty mentors, and alumni from their area of interest.
In addition to narrowing in on their academic interest and exploring academic and co-curricular opportunities that connect to their new major, students will have the opportunity to work together in interdisciplinary teams to address a range of “global challenges,” such as climate change, criminal justice reform, trust in the media, and more. Using skills developed during the retreat, students will collaborate to envision potential solutions to the most pressing challenges of our time, reflecting on how a broad liberal arts approach can be applied in real-world settings before launching into their micro-internships.
More information about the retreat’s weekly schedule will be made available during the fall semester. Students participating in the retreat should assume that the schedule will reflect full days Monday through Friday.
Through their micro-internships, students will be able to explore their academic interests and career planning in a practical setting, continue building relationships with fellow students, faculty and staff mentors, and alumni, and create an exciting and meaningful addition to their resumes during their spring semester away from campus. All students who complete the Winter Term will be eligible to receive funding for a micro-internship; students can choose to be matched with a micro-internship through SOAR or to identify their own micro-internship opportunity.