by Stephen Carroll
The English Department’s internship program invites students to explore and develop the writing, reading and thinking skills they’ve learned in their classes in a professional context. The requirements are simple: students must have a job (on-campus or off) that involves some form of substantive writing, fill out a simple form explaining that job, set some writing goals for the course, and write a short reflection paper at the end of the internship. The course is offered only on a Pass/No Pass basis, and students may sign up for as many units as they wish (up to 5 per quarter). Students may repeat the course until they earn a total of 10 units.
In recent years, students in the internship program have enjoyed a remarkable and diverse range of internships. One wrote a book about Santa Clara for College Prowler; one worked for the American Lung Association doing policy analysis and public relations work. Several students have worked for magazines, including Santa Clara Magazine, The Wave, and Metro News. Some have worked on campus, on projects related to the California Legacy Program and College English. Others have pursued off-campus jobs in places as disparate as Applied Materials (a semiconductor manufacturer), Access Communications (a public relations firm), Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, Dark Horse Comics, NBC and KQED.
Along the way, students got to fulfill some of their fondest dreams. One wrote screenplays in Hollywood. Another met Dave Berry, Joan Rivers, Patti Smith and Michael Oren through her work on KQED’s Forum. Another honed her business writing and creative writing chops working on scripts for In Wine Country, an Emmy-winning TV show about her two great passions: food and wine.
Without fail, students report in their reflections that they learned something that changed their life. It usually wasn’t something they expected to learn, and in many cases, the students didn’t realize how much their thinking had changed until they wrote their reflections. One student wrote that she had conquered her “fears of making decisions without the affirmation of authority.” Another wrote that the best part of the internship was “the confidence that was built in me as a professional instead of the confidence of a student.” Several talked about learning to trust their creative instincts and writing abilities and how they no longer second guess themselves.
Beyond this near-universal growth in confidence, the most important thing students report about their internships is that they discovered that they can have a career that revolves around their interests—whether they’re into food or film or fashion, music or manufacturing or media. They learned too, that regardless of their career choices, writing will play a central role in their ability to succeed. Many students started their reflection by saying that their internship was one of the most important classes in their education—because it allowed them to prove to themselves that the skills they learned in their English classes are truly valued in the professional world and will serve them well in their chosen careers.