The Student News Site of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student News Site of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student News Site of DePaul University

The DePaulia

How the quarter system affects internship prospects


When Jefferson Alves first stepped off his plane at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport from São Paulo, Brazil, he knew what needed to be done in his next year as a DePaul University student.

Two months of English language courses during the summer, one year of full-time classes at DePaul and a two-month internship or research project related to his computer science major were on his agenda as an international student.

But for Alves, the two-month internship or research project were a make-or-break part of his stay him the United States.

“If I could not find a research or a job, or if I chose not to do that, I need to go back to my home country,” he said.

During his internship search, Alves said he applied for 10 positions with companies in Chicago.

“I looked on the internet – I mainly used LinkedIn to find the internships,” he said. “I got, in like the first week, two ‘no’s.’”

But when he was contacted for an engineer position with Motorola, Alves said he felt his luck had finally turned around. But the process of getting the internship turned out to be more than he bargained for.

“The first time they said I got through and passed the first step, which was a phone interview,” he said. “Then I got through the second step – a test – and they said your test and the test of another person were good, so we’re moving you to the next step. I had another interview with them, and I waited two weeks and got a ‘no’ too.”

Eventually, Alves said he did not have the time or energy to take away from his course-load to continue pursuing an internship and decided to accept a research within DePaul’s College of Digital and Computing Media (CDM).

With DePaul’s quarter system, students like Alves struggle to find internship opportunities outside of the classroom. Though he was able to eventually find a research opportunity at DePaul, Alves wished to get some of the experience internships afford students.

To better aid students struggling to find internships, DePaul’s Career Center, which has offices in both the Lincoln Park and Loop campuses, offers students a variety of options to assist them in their internship search.

Anna Freed, a representative with the Career Center, said most students to complete their internship for credit through the University Internship program (UIP).

“We have a lot of opportunities here, but the biggest one if probably the UIP program,” she said. “It allows students to participate with an internship during their time at DePaul and, as long as their working at least 10 hours a week for 10 weeks, they can get course credit for that internship.”

Freed said the Center encourages students to search for off-campus internships and job postings on DePaul’s Handshake account.

To use, students simply log-in using their Campus Connect username and password. From there, students fill out their profile, which is set up similarly to LinkedIn, and they can upload resumes, cover letters, recommendations and other documents.

“It’s really great because it’s categorized by major and really helps you get down to what you want to be working with, and I think that’s really cool,” said Freed.

But Alves said Handshake is difficult to maneuver and just added to his already stressful internship search.

“I tried to use Handshake at DePaul but it was too many things to fill out and the jobs wanted a lot of forms and asked a lot of questions, and I just did not have time for it,” he said. “I spent like a full day building a nice LinkedIn profile and it has everything about my professional life on there. I don’t want to fill that out again.”

However, Reed said the most underutilized resource with the Career Center are the career advisers.

“They look over your resume and cover letters, and they can help you specify your resume and cover letters specifically toward a certain job,” she said. “Other resources we offer help you find jobs, but seeing an adviser and having these documents looked over helps you obtain the position. Those advisers can really help you get the job.”

Stella Chen, a graduate accounting student, said her internship search went relatively smoothly. But she did not use DePaul’s resources to find it.

“We have a lot of other students in our chat groups so they will send out job information,” she said. “I applied, got an interview and I started working.”

Chen said the internship was for a small accounting firm in Homewood, a southern suburb of Chicago.

“I did a lot of things like preparing tax returns, bookkeeping and some basic office duties,” she said.

But Chen said she knew the possibility of keeping the internship beyond the summer was not an option because of the inconvenient location it has to DePaul’s campus.

“They’re too far away so a lot of people wouldn’t go there for work,” she said. “It took me an hour to get there with the Metra so I really didn’t want to do it anymore after school started back.”

Reed said companies who want DePaul students will typically work around all types of schedules.

“Every company is going to be different but I think if most people take on college students as interns, they are going to understand they’re college students before anything else,” she said.

Reed said she does recommend students put out as many applications as possible for the highest chance of success in their search.

“It obviously depends somewhat on the field you’re going into,” she said. “Competition does exist but a lot of students find these opportunity by using sites like Handshake and getting multiple options. It can’t hurt to put out applications and it gives you practice. A lot of people think they’re going to be apply for so long before they get anything, but people are looking for interns out there.”

Alves said searching for the internship and the processes of applying are not even the worst part.

“The worst part is waiting,” he said. “You don’t know. You need to wait for answers. For me, I need to know if I get that job because of my visa and international student status. The worst part is not even getting a ‘no,’ it’s the wait. It’s all the uncertainty.”

Despite the time and effort needed to obtain an internship, Reed said the payoff is definitely worth it.

“A lot of college and university students don’t get the opportunity to work in a field they want to go into before they’re pushed out into the real world,” she said. “During college, they don’t get that experience that’s going to help them understand that field and what they’re getting into.”

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