Freshman Families Weekend panel centers around summer internship opportunities

My parents, as well as hundreds of other parents of freshmen, were in town this past weekend for Freshman Families Weekend. Reservations at popular restaurants near campus filled up, and the bookstore was full of students taking advantage of their parents’ credit cards. While I took part in both of these things, my parents also found it important that they attended a few of the scheduled programs available on Saturday, even insisting that I go to one of them.

When it came time for “Vassar Students and How They Spent the Summer,” I willingly went along. I really love traveling, having gone on a few summer trips abroad to countries such as Spain, England, Italy and Greece. I’ve already been to the International Studies office to see what is available to me as soon as the summer after my freshman year. Given this, I was very curious and excited to learn what resources students older than me from Vassar College had utilized to do interesting things over the summer.

The panel was held in Rocky 200, and even though my parents and I arrived a few minutes late, there were still seats open. There were eight panelists seated in the front of the room: Vassar students ranging from sophomores to seniors. Stacy Bingham, the Director of the Career Development Office, began the panel by introducing herself and the panelists, and quickly handed the rest of the time over to the panelists themselves.

Momentarily, I realized that the panel was not what I had expected, but it was interesting and helpful nonetheless. I was looking forward to hearing where the students had traveled, what programs they had used, what kinds of things they studied and what attractions they visited.

The panel was not at all study-abroad focused, but what I got was eight perspectives and experiences about something I had not given much thought: careers. While some students did discuss their travel or study experiences, most of the hour was focused on internships and jobs, some even as close as Poughkeepsie.

The panel offered a great perspective and insight on things most freshmen probably haven’t considered much yet while acclimating to a new campus, such as utilizing the Career Development office, fellowships, grants and alumnae/i networks. The CDO had been mentioned when I attended a Vassar information session a year ago, but it wasn’t made apparent how useful it can really be. The panelists had a huge range of interests and skills and attributed their great experiences to the resources Vassar had to offer.

To name those that I can remember, there were students interested in multiple disciplines, including but not limited to political science, economics, sociology, Hispanic studies, environmental studies and even Arabic and other languages. This goes to show that Vassar’s resources can cater to and encompass all types of interests and areas of study, even the more obscure ones that involve a lower number of students or participants. From what the panelists discussed at the weekend meeting, it seems like all it takes is a quick visit to the CDO office to jump-start useful experiences outside Vassar’s “bubble.”

One of the most significant reasons I was initially interested in applying to Vassar was its open curriculum, mostly because I have a wide range of interests and I’m not sure which I want to lead to a career. Therefore, I wanted a school where I had the appropriate time and circumstances to take classes in a variety of subjects before tailoring to those that suited me and my interests best.

Because of this—not knowing what I want to do or what I wanted to study when I came to college—I jumped to study-abroad for summer possibilities and new experiences during my time at Vassar. After attending this panel, I have realized that while study-abroad is an amazing thing and still definitely something in which I want to take part, there is an extensive assortment of other options in which Vassar students can partake.

I’m thankful I attended this panel to learn more about the resources available to us, but it should be advertised more around campus so that everyone, especially those new to campus, will be aware of it. One panelist had already traveled to Japan over the summer with a company to teach English, and she was only a sophomore. Freshmen should not be afraid to start right now by visiting the CDO and learning about their options.

For some reason, I assumed that the Career Development Office was a place I wouldn’t visit until my junior year and I was looking for an internship or job that would determine my life course. Now, I want to visit the office in the next few weeks to get a grasp on what I can do, where I can go, what connections I will be able to make and who I can work with as soon as the summer of 2015.

There are so many resources available to Vassar students that I had not contemplated yet, like fellowships, grants and stipends that could enable me to travel and work more freely during the summer and after my time at Vassar College. Just from what I heard at this panel, it seems like that CDO is not a resource that should be passed up, and it would be a shame to go through Vassar without utilizing it, even as early as freshman year.

—Sarah Sandler ’18 is currently undeclared.

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