We have included select quotes from students surveyed in our Freshmen Summer Project. Though not one summer can objectively be more fulfilling than others, we also highlighted six students who altogether represent the most diverse set of summer experiences. Each is well equipped and excited to answer questions any reader has about their summers, studies, and aspirations.
Tech or Startups
Sign.al Mentor, Lea Chen on chasing her passion for fashion (fashion startup and house):"I did a mix of things my freshman summer and it was super important to me to do a number of things I was interested in/passionate about just for my own development. I interned at a beauty startup called treStiQue doing digital marketing and interned at Chloe, the French fashion house, doing visual merchandising during their market week. I was also chosen to attend Victoria Secret Pink's Summer Camp which essentially was an awesome PR campaign. In my free time, I also worked on a lot of personal projects I'd always wanted to pursue or delve into." Contact Lea
Sign.al Mentor, David Ongchoco on combining tech experience with cultural learning (startup accelerator, YouthHack): “I looked for an internship that would have allowed me to gain a technical skillset or give me a hands-on experience working in an early stage technology startup. I would also spend time doing tutorials to improve my technical skill-set in coding, design and marketing. My freshman summer really opened my eyes to the startup scene in South East Asia and gave me an opportunity to build my professional network through the investors, entrepreneurs and friends I got to meet in the various meetups and conferences I attended all over South East Asia. More than the professional experiences, it also opened my eyes to various cultures as well. Spending time building my network, working on side projects and traveling South East Asia definitely helped me diversify my experiences which definitely helped me recruit last summer and for this summer.” Contact David
Will Yoo on never growing up and seeking education (Horizons camp): From his Horizon's interview - "I interviewed Edward on the phone while searching for promising founders to profile. I picked his brain on topics ranging from technology and entrepreneurship to literature and education. The vision for Horizons fascinated me. I had always felt that education was antiquated — and I was very much seeking what Horizons offered — a blueprint of education drawn in the 21st century. The best thing about this experiment is the excitement. It’s a breath of fresh air to see eyes mutually and consistently lit up. I think that only happens when people truly care enough. My advice to freshmen is to never grow up." Contact Will
Sneha Chidambaram on not stressing out about internships (mobile ads startup): "I'd make sure to not stress out/majorly obsess over finding an internship. Looking back, the main thing employers focused on is about what you know, and not necessarily the experiences you have so learning practical skills doesn’t have to come from an internship" Contact Sneha
Kevin Wang on using the summer to pivot majors (bioengineering company): “[The internship] made me realize the depth of CS and eventually helped sway my decision to switch majors. I would have asked more questions and tried to pursue my own projects sooner rather than later, simply because it's counterproductive to work on a project you aren't passionate about instead of something that you love.” Contact Kevin
Kayvon Asemani on creating your own fulfilling internship (trust fund): "With freshman summer, it doesn't matter what you do, as long as it's fulfilling and you can talk about it. and if you get denied from every program, then you can start your own thing, and that's just as impressive, if not more impressive. The big takeaway: Freshman year summer is built on a personal network. If you know someone, they can finesse you something quickly. So who has what isn't necessarily a function of who's more impressive than the other, but instead it's about who you know. So, if you don't know anyone, that's completely ok, there are so many other options. Take classes, do research, build your own entrepreneurial venture, or even better, DO ALL THREE AT THE SAME TIME! That's a super busy and exhilarating summer, will teach you a bunch, be great for a resume, and most importantly, ANYONE CAN DO IT. Essentially what that is. is it's creating your own internship program, which is awesome." Contact Kayvon
Anonymous Senior on having tangible projects and honing communication skills (private equity firm): "Don't get caught up in thinking you need a brand name for freshman summer - what's important is to work somewhere where you would have at least 3 tangible projects/tasks that you can intelligently talk about. Hone in on your communication/professional skills as a freshman - sending concise yet informative emails, taking detailed notes during meetings that can be of help to your team, being organized and being professional are all things not tied specifically to "finance skills" that are sometimes overlooked, but still really important for future summers as an aspiring business person." Contact Senior
Stephanie Cho on how to succeed in a tough finance environment (private equity firm):"I would have tried to be more confident in my work and also not be afraid to ask questions because that’s how you get assessed to get more work. Also, when directions are not clear and you don’t know much, it can be much more time-consuming and costly to try to do it on your own than to simply ask and clarify. it was super relevant to my sophomore and junior internships.” Contact Stephanie
Beatriz Go on having cool stories to tell (Philippines Stock Exchange): "I wish I followed my first instinct and gone to China to learn Chinese or to London to go to baking school. I kid you not freshmen - it may seem like the upperclassmen are telling you to do something fun but then are also telling you that they did a "legit" internship freshmen year. They're not trying to give you false advice. They are giving you the advice they wish they had taken. Freshman year summer is that one chance to do something you love without consequence! Do it! And you'll even have a cool story to tell.” Contact Beatriz
Sign.al Mentor, Holly Li on finding herself (London School of Economics, hitchhiked China): "It was the best thing I ever did. I didn't end up talking about my Chinese adventures or my LSE research topics in any interview, but the perspective I gained from that summer inspired me-- "opened my eyes," if you will-- and I felt confident afterwards to pursue a lot of different interests sophomore year. Freshman summers are for finding yourself!" Contact Holly
Bill on covering distance (Center of Advanced Studies in India): "It was hot. Really hot. But so were the passion of the people that worked around me. I realized that it’s not about moving fast, but it’s about covering distance. The summer in India taught me how to stay calm and take in. Easily my best experience at Penn." Contact Bill
Rachel Walter on taking advantage of her last fun summer (Penn in Madrid): "It was my last "fun" summer where I didn't feel the pressure to get a good internship. I took advantage of that and studied abroad instead and that was an amazing experience I would not trade for anything.” Contact Rachel
Olivia Lee on working until you die (Harvard Beijing Academy): "Summer after freshman year is a good time to not have an internship in my opinion since you'll be doomed to having one afterwards and then a job every summer until you die.” Contact Olivia
Savannah Heon on her summer experience (Penn in Buenos Aires): "It was lit" Contact Savannah
Non-Profit or High School Job
Sign.al Mentor, Shaishvi Shrivastava on building a school for disabilities (non-profit in India): "Summer of 9th grade I was in India visiting my family. I got involved in the program after accompanying my dad on a trip to visit his friend, who ran the Arushi School for people with disabilities. While they talked I went to play with and assist in teaching some of the students. I really enjoyed it and asked how I could contribute more deeply. My dad’s friend knew of two other people who wanted to volunteer and so we got together and ended up identifying an issue – stigmatization of people with disabilities in India—and running a program in local schools to address the problem." Contact Shaishvi
Sign.al Mentor, Lauren Anders on teaching robotics for underprivileged students (education camp): "I loved working at Sylvan from the beginning. I taught students in grades K-8 in suburban St. Louis math, robotics, and coding. I also piloted robotics camps in urban St. Louis for underprivileged students who otherwise could not afford these camps. It was very rewarding to get to know the students and watch their progress (especially the kids in the city). By working here my freshman summer, I took part in interesting, fun, and valuable work, that truthfully I probably enjoyed more than I would have enjoyed working in D.C. Overall, I don’t regret how I spent my freshman summer. I was able to catch up with high school friends, spend time with my family, and visit many of my favorite places in St. Louis that I hadn’t visited since going to Penn. I was still successful in finding something to do my sophomore summer, and overall, I was able to have a relaxing, stress-free break from Penn (which is all I needed as a freshman anyways!)." Contact Lauren
Research or Classes
Sign.al Mentor, Savi Joshi on making her hot cheetos cookbook and living the monk life (Le Cordon Bleu, monastery): From her Medium article - "To say that my time at the monastery changed my life would be the easy way out because even the very fact that I chose to step out of bed with my left foot instead of right this morning was also “life-changing.” So let me rephrase that. While my decision to spend time at the monastery changed my life, the time I spent there enhanced it." Contact Savi
Andrea Ning on testing out different work environments and keeping a hold on personal health (Penn classes, RA, tour guide): "My summer work truly helped me understand what kind of work environment I want to be in. For example, working as an RA was very quiet and although the work was interesting, I preferred working with people as a tour guide. I learned the most doing work for the Admissions Office, because I suddenly gained a lot of responsibility and was given the freedom to spearhead new projects. The adults in the office took me seriously and valued my opinions, so my confidence grew as I implemented more ideas. Because the Admissions Office is part of a large bureaucratic system, I also gained exposure to the limitations of a large system and how to manage relationships with multiple departments and compromise. Furthermore, juggling these three responsibilities, I learned how to manage my time better and a truer meaning of hard work. Additionally, I wish I had taken my personal health more seriously. When my work/school life got really busy, my room would be a mess and my eating habits got really out of whack. I often shoved away exercise and personal time to get more work done and this was really unhealthy behavior that I didn't realize at the time!” Contact Andrea
Brian Chau on taking easier summer courses (Penn classes): "I would say the classes themselves weren't incredibly useful but the great thing about getting requirements out of the way is that it allowed me to have a lighter course load around OCR periods (junior and senior year). In addition, summer courses tend to be easier so you can argue that it also helped my GPA vs. if I had taken them normally during the fall/spring semesters. If I could go back, I would still take classes but also do research with a Wharton professor in a field that I am interested in on the side. I knew a few students in my summer classes who did this and I think research experience does help you stand out during interviews.” Contact Brian
Interested in exploring opportunities mentioned here?
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