From Classroom to Conference Room: My Externship Experience

As the end of my first semester at Swarthmore was fast approaching in December, I reflected on just how much I learned in those few short months. Actually, I soon came to see that my most memorable moments in the fall were outside of the classroom.

I previously associated learning with a particular focus on coursework itself – whether it was in a novel or through a lab experiment. As much as the didactic work from high school classes like AP Biology or AP English has stuck with me, I have come to see that my time at Swarthmore provided a greater impact beyond the classroom. From my first semester, I was fortunate to have several classes incorporate part of the curriculum with community-based volunteer experiences with local non-profits. For one of my humanities classes, we ventured to hold our class discussions in the nearby Crum Woods to connect our ecology readings through an immersive experience.

Aside from these particular moments in my first semester, I was again encouraged to explore another passion of mine (advancement and alumni relations) during a week-long externship in January.

To give background, (as I was not familiar with this program until I came onto campus) Swarthmore offers an externship program for students to shadow alumni in industries ranging from medicine to education at locations across the country.

I questioned whether I would be able to get an externship because I was a first-year student. Yet, I soon came to see that I, along with other freshmen, were able to participate as externs.

I was fortunate to work right on campus with the Advancement Office. David Eldridge ’90 provided me with the chance to gain insight among departments spanning from Individual Giving to Alumni Relations. As an alumnus of Swat, David shared very similar experiences to my own at Swarthmore. Interestingly, despite our gaps between our time at Swarthmore, we quickly discovered a bond through several slang phrases that have not changed on campus over the years.

For the Advancement externship, I began the week with a meeting that included several Individual Giving Officers who detailed their past experiences and current roles for the Advancement Office. The staff represented a wide range of backgrounds, identities, and experiences—all of which I was able to learn about during my time in the office. From that initial meeting, the work environment was noticeably welcoming and dynamic.

As the externship progressed, I shadowed staff in several different departments and soon was able to not only master how to use the coffee machine, but I was fortunate to interact with alumni to bring together the array of experiences from the externship. Also, participating in department meetings also allowed me to develop my perspective of alumni engagement from another lens.

A highlight of the week including a morning breakfast and discussion among the department

From meeting with alumni regarding engagement opportunities to learning the intricacies involved in advancement research and communications, I am fortunate to have gained experiences and workplace insight that will impact me well beyond the externship.