My Winter Externship Experience

Each winter, Swarthmore offers a unique externship program, a weeklong job-shadowing experience that pairs current Swatties with alumni in a variety of professional fields. Students have the chance to gain exposure to various professions, learn workplace skills, and broaden their network while alumni get to meet current students and hear about life at Swarthmore today. It’s a one-of-a-kind program that truly speaks to Swarthmore’s goal to create individualized learning experiences and opportunities.

As a student in the humanities and social sciences, I am often unsure of concrete career paths to explore post-college. The externship program was a perfect way to familiarize myself with possible pathways. Alumni working in a vast array of fields including education, publishing, academia, urban planning, and technology offered externships all around the U.S.

Ultimately, I externed with an alum at U.C. Berkeley’s Center for Cities + Schools (CC+S), a research institute that promotes education as a crucial component of urban vitality to create equitable communities for all. In my externship, I focused on the Y-PLAN aspect of the Center, which aims to “plan healthy, vibrant cities for and with young people.” The most recent manifestation of this goal was the Y-PLAN Resilient by Design Youth Challenge, a design challenge for Bay Area youth created in a fitting partnership between CC+S and the Resilient by Design | Bay Area Challenge (RbD), a collaborative design challenge that engaged Bay Area communities in planning for a climate resilient region. The omission of youth within the larger RbD Challenge was soon recognized, and CC+S and RbD responded by creating this parallel youth challenge. The fifteen Bay Area public schools involved responded to the prompt of: How can we make our communities more resilient to climate change?”

Students working on a Center for Cities + Schools project (photo courtesy of the Center for Cities + Schools)

While I wasn’t working in the office while the youth challenge was taking place, I was part of the reflection stage. My two main tasks throughout my externship were digitally organizing all the materials regarding the youth challenge (photos, academic papers, videos, interviews, press materials, etc.) and crafting a blog post using in-depth interviews with the core members of the Center for Cities + Schools team.

My weeklong experience at the CC+S aligned well with both my current academic interests as well as my future professional aspirations. As an Honors art history major and Honors sociology-anthropology minor, I am interested in the intersections between the aesthetic qualities of architecture and urban planning and the lived, social histories of the built environment. This externship was a perfect blend of the two. Throughout the externship, I was reminded of the importance for not only considering, but prioritizing the social aspect of city planning. After my last day at U.C. Berkeley, I felt invigorated and excited for the prospects of the future; CC+S reminded me of the possibility to blend the aesthetic with the social to design sustainable solutions that seek to include and celebrate the preexisting social fabric of communities.


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