BGSU senior lands 'dream job' summer internship
By Kandace York
Emma Leader, a senior majoring in human development and family studies, wasn’t expecting to work a summer internship. She had just signed an apartment lease. She already knew she would have a capstone internship with her major in another few months.
But some time on Worknet (now Handshake) brought up an opportunity too intriguing for her to ignore: coordinating a high school summer program at Columbia University in New York City
“When I started reading more about the program,” she said, “it seemed like a really good fit for me and my interests within my major: adolescent development and student affairs.”
She applied, was selected for the internship, and soon she was flying to New York for training before starting the eight-week internship.
It was helpful that she already had some familiarity with the city.
“This was my sixth time in New York,” she said. “I have always loved the city and try to visit as often as I can, so it was a dream come true to live there. I viewed this summer as a “test run” to see if I would be able to live there long term, and it only confirmed that New York is where I would like to end up after graduation.”
Her internship responsibilities were to help run Columbia’s High School Summer Immersion program. Every year, about 3,000 high school students from all over the world come to Columbia to take classes, experience college life and explore New York City. The program’s goal is to foster independence in students and provide as realistic of a college experience as possible for them, while also making sure they take advantage of living in the city.
Part of Leader’s internships involved serving as a residence advisor for the high school students.
“I served as an RA during each three-week session, and also worked on the cultural engagement team,” she said. “We were responsible for organizing excursions around the city for students to go on in the evenings and on weekends. I took students to museums, parks, Broadway shows and concerts in order to give them a taste of the city.”
Leader said that working as a residence advisor made her “a little nervous,” but her on-campus work at BGSU helped. She had worked in the College of Education and Human Development advising office and the dean’s office and she had helped with some high-profile events such as SOAR and the University Dance Alliance, as well as being a Student Ambassador for the College of Education and Human Development.
“I felt very comfortable working in a student affairs setting," she said. "It was challenging but also really rewarding to step outside of the academic environment that I’m used to working in and get a different perspective. I have a greater level of appreciation for everyone that works to make BGSU the great community that it is through residence life and student engagement after this summer.”
The internship complemented her major, she said, because as one of the broader programs, she has had the chance to explore different life stages and study human interaction and relationships in depth.
“Almost any human services-related career is open to me with this degree,” she said. “Throughout my time in the HDFS program I’ve always been really interested in adolescent development, so it was really cool to work with teenagers and see a lot of the developmental concepts that I’ve learned over the years ‘come to life.’”
She had high praise for the Human Development and Family Studies faculty.
“They have always been incredibly helpful and so supportive, and I know that I can go to them with anything. I’m convinced that I would not have gotten this internship without them,” Leader said.
She gave equal credit to her advisor, Laura Barned, who wrote her letter of recommendation for the program.
“She’s done so much for me since I transferred here," Leader said. "She pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and go for this.”
Leader returned to Bowling Green in early August, just a couple weeks before classes started. Reflecting on her internship experience, she said, “I think the most important thing I gained from this experience was increased flexibility. Before working at Columbia, I’ve always been a planner. It’s a running joke with some of my professors that I like to know what’s going on at all times and always have to know what the next step is going to be. However, I learned this summer that it’s impossible to work with teenagers and not be flexible.”
Although she is still deciding whether to pursue a career or further her education after graduation, Leader said, “I know that I’m going to approach my last year at BGSU with an open mind, and not count anything out. This University truly is so special to me, and I’m in denial that graduation is just around the corner.”