Meg Zolner, History and Science Concentrator in Kirkland House, Class of 2012
As a prospective student, I remember wondering what life would look like for a Harvard student – What time do they wake up? What are lectures like? What do they do for fun? One thought that never occurred to me, though, was what summers meant for Harvard students.
For Harvard students, summers offer a fabulous opportunity to explore new regions of the world, learn about the workings of local government from a state representative, or enjoy some well-deserved relaxation time at home. The previous bloggers showcase the true diversity of interests amongst the student body, which is, to me, one of the most distinctive aspects of a Harvard experience. These interests become even more apparent during the summers.
For three three-month long summers, we can try on different hats. As Harvard students, we can always try out new things on campus – take that new history class about pyramids, sign up for ballroom dancing lessons, or (attempt to) win the intramural ping-pong tournament. But, summers are special. We have the opportunity to learn through real work experience, and most students take advantage – I’ve definitely been no exception!
I’ve worked on campus – I gave historical tours through Harvard’s Events and Information Center and counseled prospective students as an Admissions Counselor in the College’s Admissions Office. I was able to meet students – like you! – and families, some visiting for the first time, who were eager to fully immerse themselves in Harvard’s history, traditions, and newest initiatives.
I’ve traveled to Cambridge, England to study as part of an eight-week interdisciplinary program – actually with Rachel, the most recent guest blogger! Now, our passports look incredibly exciting, and we’ve officially incorporated “cheers” into our vocabularies. More importantly, though, I was able to take three classes that introduced me to new cultures and schools of thought. Classes about the history of British sport, the cycles of conquest in medieval England, and the study and practice of traditional art were all unique to my particular program, as they were able to point to and incorporate the very real pieces of history that then surrounded us.
And this summer, I’m working at a nonprofit in the Boston area as part of a nonprofit consulting fellowship. With this position, which I was introduced to through one of the many career fairs on campus, I’m able to gain operational experience working within the Development Office of a nonprofit, while also being trained as a consultant; I’m getting hands on experience by conducting prospect research and writing copy for fundraising campaigns, while also working on a more theoretical level to answer questions of growth, specialization, and strategy within real businesses.
And, Harvard has been with me when I’ve tried on each of these hats. Harvard’s Student Employment Office, Office of International Programs, and Nonprofit Career Fair have connected me with each of these opportunities. They make the sometimes abstract and intimidating summer search fully manageable, steering students in the right directions.
For some, summer positions turn into fulltime job offers after college, a definite perk of any summer internship. For others, summers are especially valuable in refining career interests or even figuring out those areas that actually may not be the best choices for you.
As a rising senior at the College, real life is just around the corner, and while that isn’t exactly comforting for many of my friends – we don’t want to leave! – I appreciate that I won’t be alone in choosing my next hat. Advice is everywhere to be had, and clues can come in the form of an information session with a company representative, an email to a career counselor in the Office of Career Services, or even just a conversation with a peer about a career of interest.
For any incoming or prospective students, don’t worry about real life just yet! You have four terrific school years of fun exploration ahead of you, but, as a Harvard senior who has had fabulous experiences over the past three years, taking full advantage of those three months off campus each year has led me to many surprisingly valuable insights.
P.S. Please let any of us know if you have questions about these blog entries or the Harvard student experience more generally!
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