Last summer Jessie Yu '13 began paving her career path in exceptional fashion: She interned at Broad & Bright, a law firm in Beijing. The firsthand work experience in China increased her passion for international law and broadened her as a person, says the Pomona senior.
"I think there's just something about working abroad that is so different from taking classes or even being in an academic setting abroad," says Yu, who spent six months studying at Cambridge University in England before working in Beijing. "It brings new challenges. It helps you with adaptability, thinking on your feet, practical career skills and interpersonal skills."
Such growth is among the many benefits students gain from Pomona's summer internship program. Administered by the College's Career Development Office (CDO), the program funds full-time domestic and international internships. Two other students worked abroad last summer (the first year of the program's international component): Rebekah Cramerus '14 worked as a teacher's assistant in Guatemala, while Kathy Lu '14 worked at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing as an intern for the U.S. State Department.
"If we're fulfilling a mission by providing a liberal arts education, producing well-rounded students and lifelong learners, it means there has to be the global dimension," says Mary Raymond, director of the CDO.
In addition to providing a career boost, the internships help students compete successfully if they apply to graduate school and for fellowships and scholarships, adds Raymond.
The College pays the hourly wages of interns, and provides stipends of up to $4,000 for domestic internships and up to $5,000 for international internships to cover living expenses and travel in the summer, funded primarily by gifts from alumni, parents and foundations. The CDO's aim is to provide as many interested students as possible with these tremendous opportunities, and already the program has grown dramatically because of donors' increased funding. Eight students will be funded for international internships this summer.
"The students are very grateful for the Pomona community," says internship coordinator Marcela Rojas.
Working for Broad and Bright, which specializes in international business law, Yu translated various legal documents from Chinese into English and says she learned a great deal about the Chinese judicial system. She plans to attend law school.
In Guatemala, Cramerus worked for Safe Passage/Camino Seguro, a nonprofit that helps children and families living in extreme poverty. In the mornings, she taught English to eighth graders. In the afternoons, she was an assistant to a class of second graders, reading with them, helping them with their homework, and generally being a supportive, caring presence for children who didn't always get that at home.
"I've never met kids who were so eager to get your attention and help in any way possible," says the Pomona junior.
Cramerus says the experience at Safe Passage reinforced her desire to teach English as a second language and improve the lives of at-risk children through education.
"In a way, I wonder if the children I worked with ended up helping me more than I ended up helping them," she says. "I left Guatemala with a new awareness of what it was like to be in poverty and a new understanding of what I wanted to do in my future."