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First Summer as a College Student?!

Advice for first years from Johnson Scholars who have been there.

New campus, new schedules, new opportunities! The first year of college is marked by lots of changes, figuring out what to get involved in and seeking new experiences. A big question we are hearing a lot right now is what should i do with my first summer in college? Apply for an internship? Spend time at home? Get a job?

We asked for help and bits of advice from Johnson Scholars who have already been there, done that.


i just went home and worked at a restaurant! it’s the last summer to really just enjoy and not worry about advancing your career, i think.   -sabine pigg


this summer i helped run the business accelerator program with the miller center for social entrepreneurship ( i was able to meet with a ton of ceos who ran incredible social enterprises all over the world and saw what it looked like to pitch your business plan to impact investors. i also got to take a vacation in multiple countries throughout europe --i would encourage you to also do something apart from your professional career and let your summer be a summer for a while! :)   -ashley ricks


my first summer in college i worked with dr. dahlhoff in her research lab doing fieldwork at the field station in bishop. as for advice, i would say if they have a remote idea of their career path just trying to get any experience in that field is super valuable. if they are fairly unsure of what they want to do, i would say pick a class or two they found most enjoyable during the year, and try to gain experience in the field those classes are a part of. lastly, i would encourage them to still set aside some time for rest, i think it’s a huge mistake for summer to be as busy as the school year because i think a break is really needed in order to come back to fall quarter ready for another busy year.   -brynn sargent


i was able to be a civil engineering intern in my hometown's public works. i would advise that if you'd like an internship, get started now! talk to anyone you can; professors, siblings, sibling's friends, parents, parent's friends, any connections you may have to the field you'd like to intern in, and get information on possible internships or summer opportunities. be persistent, and if someone hasn't responded to your email or phone call in a week, try again. also, keep in contact with those you talked to even if there may not be a position for you, as these connections can be important in the future! particularly for stem, winter break is fine to apply, but it may be late as these internship positions fill up quickly. if internships don't work out, look into non-profit/volunteer work or research. those are easier to coordinate/find. i found my internship by emailing my neighbor. so, neighbors too!   -rachael han


this may be more relevant for business or engineering majors: i worked part time at a clothing store as a stock associate, and also part time for a local real estate investor doing filing/organizing/data entry. both jobs aren't exactly related to my major (finance), but they were both a) something to put on my resume and b) great ways to work on universal skills like time management, teamwork, excel, etc. summer is also a great time to pick up a new skill -- i wish i had used my downtime to learn coding instead of having to learn now. for classes, linkedin learning and udemy are great resources.   -taylor tagawa


last summer i worked at a church in palo alto called penisula bible church through a program called the summer leadership institute. basically, the church takes on about ten to twelve college students to work as paid interns for the church over the summer to help with either children or youth ministries. we also were mentored by pastors and trained in areas of ministry!

advice i would have is to do something that you love doing and that is going to grow you. don’t do something just for the resume :)   -lauren larson


my first summer in college was spent visiting my family in colombia. once i got back from colombia, i volunteered in my mom's transitional kindergarten classroom as her teacher's assistant for the last six weeks of summer. giving myself room to rest and to enjoy my family wholeheartedly was something i needed before starting my volunteer work and then coming back to school. first years, remember that self-care is productive and that there is so much potential to make it intentional! -alejandra fraume valencia


i interned at merrill lynch wealth management back at home in las vegas. if any of the first years are interested in careers in finance, i’d be more than happy to grab coffee or a meal with them to talk about my experience and what i have learned about different career paths in finance. i believe this would be much more productive than me writing a few sentences, because based on the career path that the younger scholars are interested in, even within finance, what they should be looking to do this summer is very different.   -riley haase


i spent the summer after my first year with the district attorney’s office in san francisco. i was paired with one of the assistant district attorneys and attended court performed document editing and review, and assisted with collaborative court meetings within judges’ chambers.   -eoin lyons


my first summer i actually spent time just working in a restaurant as a waitress. as someone who usually takes unpaid internships or sticks to volunteering, it was a different and necessary experience to have a “real job” for a summer. i would highly recommend this because for many people it is the last summer to meet people and make connections outside of a specific career oriented focus.   -alexa desanctis


i worked in dr. miller's biology lab during my first summer in college. for anyone in a stem field, i would encourage you to try to get a job in a lab at scu - most labs at large research institutions do not give first-years real projects, but in undergraduate labs such as those at scu you will get your own project and will gain incredibly valuable skills and knowledge that will help you get other stem jobs down the line. for research at scu, and even elsewhere, there are a lot of grants you can apply for through the uhp so that your lab doesn't have to pay you, which is also very helpful. for any job, look early (start in fall!) and talk to your professors about options on and off campus. another good opportunity for those in stem fields is the nih reu program:   -hannah kortbawi


i did research for half the summer, and went home for the other half. i wasn't sure which lab i wanted to join, and dr. miller was really helpful in giving me an opportunity to shadow two labs. she has a summer rotation program that she offers to johnson scholars, so i recommend having interested students reach out to dr. miller about doing summer research.   -vanessa shin


my first summer i completed final exams on june 14th, moved out of dorms june 14th, rushed to get ready for my 12-week internship with google and took the red eye flight to nyc on june 17th, began the internship from june 19th-september 8th, packed, cleaned my apartment and flew out september 10th to prepare for scu year two! advice: this was an amazing opportunity, but there was little to no downtime nor vacation time---exhausting is one word, but i wouldn't have passed up the opportunity. i would suggest summer school, volunteering, brushing up on some skills you always wanted to make time for or finding any summer opportunity if not in your field to occupy your time and meet new people.   -aj elfar