Whether a college student aims to be LeBron James’ media manager or his corporate lawyer, internships are all the rage.
“Every student should intern no matter what major you are, as many times as you can,” Assistant Director of Internships and Orientations Kirsten Vassie said. “It’s the hot, hot thing right now.”
Vassie heads the internship branch for International Programs. This marks her second year on the job. She serves as the main person evaluating student applications for the summer internship programs that Pepperdine offers in London, Buenos Aires, Shanghai, Lausanne and Washington, D.C.
Seaver College students rave about studying abroad. Hearing a junior drop the phrase, “Remember that time in Paris” is commonplace on campus. For participating students, the intern programs fall under that list of unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime Pepperdine experiences.
But what goes on behind the scenes to secure spots at companies in Washington, D.C., and the other four foreign countries?
A total of about 96 students intern abroad every summer, according to Director of International Programs Jeff Hamilton. Before receiving placement, students go through an application process.
Applicants must produce a CV (international resume), a letter of intent, and answer essay questions. The final step is the interview. When that is finished, Vassie sends the collected information to the corresponding overseas program directors. Then from there — as Vassie says — “the magic is made.”
Program directors do everything in their power to place students. In an email, London Director Carolyn Vos Strache explained the challenges she faces:
“The UK is in a recession and they want to hire British students. We have had to work really hard to get some of our regular placements to take interns during the past two years. Since the economy is turning around here, we hope this summer it will be easier to place interns.”
Vassie, having previously solely occupied the helm of internship placement for the Washington, D.C. program, understands the struggles, but equally admires the work put into the program. While economic troubles can deter potential hirers, the sheer bulk of hard work that directors dedicate in finding placements visibly pays off.
Vos Strache mentioned how she is able to manage positive relationships with receptive companies to the point where they will “always take an intern from Pepperdine.”
In addition, Managing Director of Shanghai Program’s internLINK (Chinese internship program) Jaclyn McClure and Buenos Aires Director Rafael De Sanzo both affirmed they have specific contacts that never fail to hire Pepperdine students.
Back in Malibu, Vassie said she could testify to that and goes a step further — not only are certain businesses willing to hire, some of them go out of their way to ask for Pepperdine students specifically.
“The White House has contacted us personally,” Vassie said. “Their coordinators have contacted me saying, ‘Can you send us more interns?’ I say, ‘Yes sir, yes ma’am. Absolutely.’ And that’s fantastic. It says a lot about our students and about Pepperdine.”
A small chunk of example placements besides the White House include the House of Parliament, Casa Ronald McDonald, Habitat for Humanity, the American Embassy and the Sino United Health hotel.
Abroad, the range of opportunities differ from program to program. For instance, Shanghai dominantly accepts international business students, according to McClure. On the other hand, Buenos Aires tends to be heavier in business and natural science majors.
While location matters for placement, one specific goal weaved through the responses of Hamilton, Vos Strache and Vassie: students leave their internship enlightened.
Although, for some that enlightenment may come in the form of rejection.
“Sometimes students find out what they don’t want to do and that is helpful,” Vos Strache wrote.
Hamilton spoke along similar lines: “For some people it’s exploring, ‘Do I truly want to keep my major?’ For some people the answer is no. For some people it’s taking their experience to the next level.”
Regardless of the chosen career and end goals, IP internship programs and the combination of working parts, from overseas directors to coordinators in Malibu, dazzle and impress Vassie.
“The best part is when they return,” Vassie said. “They are confident, they are matured and they are happy with themselves. They dream and they can accomplish it. They come back ready to graduate, knowing it is hard work but that they can do it. It’s so rewarding. It’s the best part of my job.”
Vassie concluded by emphasizing the weighted importance of IP programs and valued workforce experiences: “It should be that interning is just like going to Convo. It’s just something you do here at Pepperdine.”
Priority deadline for the summer internship programs closed on Sept. 23, 2013. Space permitting, applicants can be accepted on a rolling basis.
Follow Alysha Tsuji on Twitter: @alyshatsuji
As published in the Sept. 26 issue of the Pepperdine Graphic.