When all of your friends have their internships, at what point should you panic? Regina Wen shares how she learned to shift her focus away from the timeline of her friends to the right timeline for her major. She shares her best advice for looking for jobs with majors in the humanities, and how her job as a research assistant has helped her rethink her opportunities.
Name: Regina Wen
Job Title: Research Intern at the Urban Teacher Education Program
Location: Chicago, IL
College: The University of Chicago
Year: Rising Fourth-Year
Major: History and Comparative Human Development
What are you doing this summer?
I am the Research Intern at the Urban Teacher Education Program, which is a subdivision of the Urban Education Institute (UEI) at UChicago. Urban Teacher Education Program is a teacher certification program, so basically, a teacher school! Most of what I do involves summarizing raw data from test scores, surveys, and progress reports into easily consumable reports so that we can better understand how the program can be improved.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I’m not exactly sure what I want my career end goal to be, but I know that in the near future I would like to go into a job that involves research and writing. I would love to work in public policy or law, but I’m also considering a career in academia because I would like to eventually get a PhD. I love learning new things, and I want to use the analytical and writing skills I’ve developed studying history and social sciences to spread knowledge and make it more accessible.
How did you get your internship?
I applied for my internship through the UChicago Handshake job search platform! It was actually a very unexpected interview and job offer because I’d been looking to do an internship that involved media or heavy writing.
What do you wish you had known during your internship search?
I wish I hadn’t been comparing myself to everyone else applying for internships! Looking for jobs is so stressful, and trying to match timelines with all of your beautiful and successful friends just gives you more unnecessary stress! For a long time, I thought I needed to lock down an internship by February or March AT THE LATEST if I wanted to work somewhere good.
All of my friends doing finance recruiting were getting offers in the fall and others were getting offers in early winter. I didn’t get my internship this year until April! If you can score your dream internship early, that’s amazing! But just know that there are so many jobs out there and so many people hiring very late into the year. Also, different fields have very different hiring timelines, so don’t stop applying even if you haven’t heard back from anyone!
What does a day in the life look like?
Every day, my alarm goes off at 7:00 AM, but I don’t wake up until 7:40 AM. I honestly don’t know how I’m able to hit snooze without waking up, but it happens without fail. Luckily, I’ve been in my body for 21 years now and I planned for waking up late! 7:40 is juuuust the right time to wake up so that I can be business-casual ready by the time the bus comes at 8:40. I was really fortunate this year because the bus I take to work picks up right outside my apartment and drops off right outside my office.
By 9:00 AM, I’m booting up my work desktop with one hand and feeding myself a breakfast banana with the other hand. My days are pretty consistent because most of my work takes place on the computer. I have a check-list of projects that need to be completed, ordered by urgency and complexity. I basically just work my way down the list, which sounds boring, but I like the sense of accomplishment you get from marking things as completed.
My projects can be anything from looking at test score data to plotting school addresses on a map. It’s been really cool to see the kinds of information academic programs use to track student progress! This internship has also been really awesome for me because I’ve made some really great friends! At lunch, some of the other interns and I will eat together (sometimes we go out!), and I love getting the chance to hang out and take a break from the all the spreadsheets! After lunch, I’m back in the office looking at data and helping with office tasks until 5:00 PM.
In the evening, I like to work-out (I’m training to run a 5k in under 30 minutes!) and chill-out with my roommates! It’s so important to find time to chill out and relax! At the very end of the day, I pick out my outfit for the next day and pack my lunch. Prepping the night before has really helped me maintain my 7:40 wake-up time!
How has this job changed what you see yourself doing in the future?
This summer has been a really eye-opening experience for me because this internship is so much more quantitative than I’m used to. When I first came into college, I think I pigeon-holed myself as a non-STEM person, and I think that mindset really held me back. I’m not the greatest at math, but I can hold my own when it comes to basic statistics and data analysis work. I realized that I love research and information and those are things I can see myself working with in the future. At the same time, however, I really like how the UEI takes information and uses it to make positive change for Chicago Public Schools and education. That’s the kind of vibe I’m looking for in a future job– somewhere committed to intellectual inquiry, but looking to apply that research in a practical way.