Brittany Brown, a Spark college student, was awarded a $4,500 Spark internship stipend over the summer of 2022. The stipend is offered to a small group of college students who secure low or unpaid internships to cover living, travel, and school expenses while interning. We believe that internships and other research and job shadowing opportunities help students build skills and connections needed for their career after college. Read about Brittany’s summer internship experience below.
This past summer I did an internship in housing and residence life at my university, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. At UNCG, the freshman class is invited to stay one night at the university on a day during the summer. This process is called Spartan Orientation, Advising and Registration (SOAR) and the purpose of it is to help the new students coming in. Throughout the day, they attend workshops and are taken to the dorms, eating areas, and other buildings that they need to know before they get to campus in the fall.
The SOAR program was my main responsibility, but not the only one. My job title was Summer Conference Assistant, or SCA. An SCA assists the housing department with any group of people who will be staying overnight in any of the campus buildings over the summer.
As an intern, my responsibilities included making sure students and parents knew exactly where to go, attending weekly staff meetings, making sure I was available to be on duty several times a week, and being available to do overnight duty as well. A typical day for me would start at 6:00 AM. The interns had to be at a specific meeting spot by 6:45 AM in order to check out the students and parents in the building. The reason we had to be up so early is because we had to get the students and parents out of the building as fast as possible so that the rooms could be cleaned and used again for the next session. After this we would take students to their various activities, lead tours, and answer any questions staff or visitors had for us. We also had a duty phone that we had to make sure was always turned on because we got several calls throughout the day from people needing help, directions, and so on.
During my internship, I learned how important time management was. I’d never had to be up so early for anything, not even school, and I had to make sure that I went to sleep fairly early in the evening. I also learned about teamwork and the importance of communication when on a professional team. I had to be in constant communication with the other interns because we had to be able to rely on each other when so many other people were relying on us for information and other things.
Lastly, I learned the importance of having a relationship with a superior. The staff members who were above us scheduled meeting times to talk to all the leaders and make sure that we were all on the same page, as well as to check in with us about our mental health and any other problems that we could possibly be facing on the job. This idea was new to me and it was something that I really appreciated. I definitely took it with me to my next job.
This internship was very closely related to my professional career goals. In the future, I will be a project manager, and my internship had a lot in common with many of the ideas behind project management. Although I was not in a leadership position, as a project manager typically is, I was still working with a team. And we faced different problems and obstacles that required us to work closely together to find solutions.
If a student had a problem overnight, we had several people on call ready to get to the student as soon as possible. When working with different types of people, anything can go wrong, from food allergies to injury to a domestic dispute, and we had to be prepared for all of these — but also had to have backup when dealing with these serious issues. This reminds me of many of the ideas I have been learning in school about project management. One of the major takeaways from each of my project management courses has been to think outside of the box or even create your own box. When dealing with young people, typically you have to be quick and know exactly what to do in times of trouble. This is exactly what I had to go through when working with the younger students, and although it is not the exact same thing as project management, it’s very similar to it and I definitely took the experiences I learned with me.
I did face several challenges during my internship, many of them financial. Although my job did come with free housing on campus during the time of the internship, we were only paid once a month. Because of the pay period, many of the interns found themselves being really financially unstable, not always able to take care of themselves or even eat because we didn’t have access to our funds until the end of each month. We also learned that our last paycheck would be sent after school had already started, and this worried me because I pay my own tuition out of pocket and I was relying on the funds from the job to help me pay my balance.
The Spark internship grant helped me figure out this problem when it arose. Without the grant, I would have been dropped from my classes and removed from my housing assignment. It allowed me to pay off my tuition balance and pay for the books and electronics that I needed. I was so grateful for the Spark internship grant’s contribution to my academic career and it surely lifted many of the financial burdens I was experiencing.