Coffee Runs and Confusion

Published Thursday, February 17, 2011 by Tarang

Watching TV and movies gives us a rather warped sense of what an internship really is. While my regular “The Journey” posts shall continue, I decided to also give a break down on obtaining an internship for high school students, since I kept mentioning my biotech internship. High school students are often told (annoyingly but correctly) that they cannot while their summers away, especially their sophomore year or junior year summers. These are the summers that can really help your application shine through and not get lost in the dark piles of obscurity. Internships also offer many advantages that have nothing to do with getting into college.

Firstly, when applying for an internship, do not look for something just because it may look good on the college application. That is an added bonus of any internship (colleges will see that you took the extra effort of obtaining an internship). The best thing is to find something you are interested in and go from there. Secondly, do not live under the delusion that movies promote- interns get their supers coffee and file papers away while talking to their glamorously dressed friends. Most high school internships are real work and require time and effort. Thirdly, do not just look for any internship. Look for an internship. This means narrow your search to something meaningful and don’t settle for anything until you are completely satisfied.

I applied for a biotechnology internship at Ohlone College in Fremont called the Ohlone Biotech Summer Institute. My internship was basically like a course and an internship all in one. Monday through Friday for four weeks, eight hours a day, the other students and I would basically be doing labs and learning various molecular biology lab techniques. The first hour in the morning was usually instruction and lecture. Then we delved into the lab, which usually took many hours. Some labs even spanned multiple days. It was a rewarding experience because we were taught the most relevant and modern bio lab techniques, and we got to read real, current scientific literature. Also, at the end of the four weeks, we had the opportunity to apply for a follow-up internship at a biotech company. Unfortunately, in my year, the company that usually took most students decided not to show up and most of us were left without follow-up internships. However, the main course at Ohlone itself was rewarding and pretty challenging. Sadly, the Biotechnology Summer Institute was not offered after Summer 2008.

Do not be disheartened! There are many opportunities for you out there. That was just my personal experience, and there are many internships in every field available. The College Board offers links to comprehensive websites:

Also, make sure to ask teachers and other people for help. I heard about the Ohlone experience through my AP Biology class. My friend interned at her family friend’s tax office. She ended up majoring in Finance and Accounting later in college. So use all the resources around you including friends, family, and the good ol’ yellow pages. The key is to not be afraid to ask. One of my other friend’s volunteered for her optometrist’s office and ended up using that experience to gain a paid position at another optometry clinic.

As someone who was always interested in biology, I looked for summer internships at various bio companies like Genentech, Cedars-Sinai, and many others. Look at the career pages of any large company in the area of your interest and I’m sure you can find something, either paid or unpaid. For example, the CDC offers summer volunteer research opportunities for high school students. Just make sure to go to the careers page and refine your search for either internship or student opportunities. Another big internship hub is (drumroll please) the US government. Make sure to check out to find interesting opportunities.

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