Although summer is generally thought of as a time for relaxation, the grind doesn’t stop for many Cornell students who spend the warm months working tirelessly in internships in order to prepare themselves for their future careers.
“I come in five days a week and usually stay until about 6pm,” Kat Liang ’25 said.
Like many Cornell students, Liang is spending her summer working long hours at an internship. But Liang has found her work as a lab assistant at a pharmaceutical company to be fulfilling.
“I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to work on a real project for bracco, rather than a simple, not-really-necessary project generated solely for intern experience,” Liang said.
For Chris Rampaul-Pino ’24, the summer internship process started in June 2021, when he sent out his initial applications.
“I didn’t hear back until the end of August,” Rampaul-Pino said. “Then from there it was a three week period of all hands on deck, just trying to figure out time to practice and prep and you know, actually do the interviews themselves during the day.”
Rampaul-Pino is spending the summer working as a summer analyst for the investment banking division of Goldman Sachs. The position involves long hours and a relocation to New York City’s financial district for the summer, but it brings with it the real-world experience that students like Rampaul-Pino believe will be necessary if they want to excel in their eventual fields.
“I feel like I’ve learned more skills and applicable talents [during my internship] than my whole three years at Cornell so far have taught me,” said Rampaul-Pino, who also emphasized that internships provide important lessons that simply can not be taught in a classroom setting.
Internships can also teach students about the culture and norms of their chosen industry, and how to navigate it.
“The most useful skill gained through [my] position was learning how to present myself and interact with others in a manner that is simultaneously professional and formal as well as humble and down-to-earth,” Liang said.
While internships can provide stellar opportunities for success in the working world, the playing field is not always level in terms of access to these opportunities.
Marina Morgan ’25, who is working as an intern for a small Seattle-based architecture firm, acknowledges that her family’s connections played a big role in securing her summer position.
“I feel lucky to have this opportunity but also know I have it mainly because my architect aunt is friends with my boss,” Morgan said. “It’s pretty hard to get hired anywhere cool as a second year architecture student with no previous work experience.”
Morgan says her connections have given her great respect for students who manage to get internships without the aid of family connections, describing her initial internship application process as humbling.
“I applied to about 15 architecture firms way too late in the process, and all of them either didn’t respond or responded with a message along the lines of ‘apply again next year,’ said Morgan. “I feel like the rejections motivate me to be more on top of the application process next year.”
Family connections are not the only kind of connections in play during application season — the University can also help. Nina Pofcher ’24, a summer intern for The Tailory New York, said that Cornell’s alumni network helped her land an internship.
“After finding the application on Linkedin, I went through the interview process and then actually spoke to somebody from Cornell who worked [at The Tailory New York],” Pofcher said.
Although many students have had the opportunity to pursue internships in their fields, others have found themselves working summer jobs in order to make money for living expenses and the upcoming school year.
Ella Paolucci ’24 is working as a hostess at a restaurant in New York City, and said her job has exposed her to new ways of thinking about herself.
“Life at Cornell is… oriented according to one’s own intellectual curiosity. My job this summer allows for moments of curiosity and discovery, but it is more so defined by a sense of consistency,” Paolucci said. “I have been given the opportunity to think of myself as a mere component of a whole, rather than as an individual.”
Whether working as interns or in summer jobs, many students say that the real world experience gained outside of the classroom setting teaches fundamental skills that benefit them after graduation.
“My job has offered me a view outside of the world of academic self-discovery and allowed me to plug into a labor system of cooperation,” Paolucci said.