Internship Diaries

How She Pushes the Boundaries of Her Major to Follow Her Heart

When you’re looking in a field that doesn’t match your major, how do you manage your recruiting timeline? University of Chicago student Samira Shabsogh shares how she managed relax while everyone in her classes recruited for finance. She also shares how her connections in her classes and in the Arabic-speaking community at UChicago helped her find her job, and whether she sees herself joining the rest of the Economics majors in fall recruiting this year.

Name: Samira Shabsogh

Job Title: Arabic Video Analyst, Research Assistant (Minerva Team), Chicago Project on Security and Threats

Location: Chicago, IL (otherwise known as “the heartland of the US!”)

College: UChicago

Year: Rising 4th(!!)

Major: Economics, minoring in History and Human Rights

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What are you doing this summer?

Research! All the research! Translation! Watching videos! MORE RESEARCH! But in all seriousness, I watch Arabic-language videos and translate the content when needed, in addition to summarizing the videos and researching whatever topic is the most significant for the project or deadline at hand.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Honestly? I’m not too sure. I’ve switched career goals so much over the past couple of years that it just isn’t feasible for me to say I want to be any specific thing. I know what I want to do in terms of actions, though.

I want to solve problems, collaborate with others, and do a little bit of research as a part of the first two things. I want to have the freedom to take a step back, analyze a situation, think about it, and come back with pros, cons, and potential future paths, and if I get to project or predict future trends based on the information on hand, that’s all the better.

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Samira making the most of her summer at Taste of Chicago.

How did you get your internship?

CPOST is actually run by Professor Pape, who specializes in International Security Affairs at UChicago’s Political Science Department. As such, so many of my friends have been involved in it at some point over the past three years. I was encouraged to apply a few times but never really thought of it as something I wanted to pursue because I was, at the time, so focused on different industries. Come third year, I had a complete change of heart. I added on two minors, and started looking at industries that didn’t necessarily have much, if anything, to do with my major. My friend Sedef encouraged me to apply for the Arabic Video Analyst intern position, so I sent in my resume and e-mailed the people in charge.

Literally a day later, I got a reply. I interviewed with and was able to ask our Research Director, Dr. Keven Ruby, about everything and anything I wanted to know. Through that conversation, I was able to tie in things that I’d learned in a class from my Spring quarter to things that I was researching over the summer. All I had left to do was prove my Arabic language competency, and I got the job.

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Samira’s headshot for the team website.

What do you wish you had known during your internship search?

I think this goes for many people looking to work in research, but don’t limit yourself too much, and take it easy.There’s something to be said about keeping an open mind and letting things come your way. In Economics, most people end up going through IB/Finance recruitment very early on so I did not find myself in the same boat as many of the people in my major classes. As a matter of fact, I don’t think you could have said that I was even in the water. I was probably still laying on the beach working on my ever non-existent tan.

At the end of the day, everyone is trying to get one thing or another to work out , and it doesn’t really matter when you do it because every industry has its own timeline really, but also every job has its own timeline. Don’t sweat it; the stress is so not worth it. Don’t be complacent, but trying too hard and overworking yourself might not help you out. It’s an unpopular opinion, especially at UChicago, but taking care of yourself is far more important than getting a job.

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Samira and her team.

What does a day in the life look like?

I usually wake up between 6:30 an 7:30, depending on how tired I am, and eat breakfast. I’ll go to Zumba if there’s a class, but otherwise I just enjoy taking my time in the mornings before I have to be in the office at 10.

I try to gravitate towards a polished-casual look, but with the humidity and the end of the summer I find myself reaching more and more often to a basic t-shirt and jeans look. I usually pack an apple or some sort of fruit and a water bottle, and I’ll pick up a salad (and more often than not, a cookie) during our lunch hour. This summer we had a few speakers come in and talk about their research or their careers and those were very insightful because the research discussed does, to a certain extent, supplement our understanding of what we are trying to achieve.

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On a daily basis, though, the Minerva team just works on the task at hand, dividing the work between us, and helping each other out if we’ve hit a bump in the road. Keven comes in to check on our work and give us a little laugh break, and we always present our findings to him to get some feedback before we present to our Primary Investigate, Dr. Robert Pape, every two weeks. We also had a few team bonding outings and those were very fun. The vibe of the office is, in general, very warm. We’re all very supportive of each other and have a few laughs during the day, but we also get our work done and grind when we need to.

How has this job changed what you see yourself doing in the future?

There was a period of time in which I thought I would enjoy doing research for the rest of my life. I found this to be untrue! While I still love researching, and I truly respect those who choose to make research their full-time career, I would need more than that to feel fulfilled.

Hello! My name is Rosana Rabines! I'm a student, stationery enthusiast, and runner constantly reorganizing my life to make the most of my college experience in Chicago.

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