JanTerm internship program allows exploration of possible careers

Shadowing surgeries, perfecting legalese at a law office, and running food to tables: these activities might seem uncommon for high school classes but have become daily work for the students in the JanTerm internship program. Participants in the program have spent JanTerm in unconventional classrooms around Atlanta, the country, and the world. Led by JanTerm coordinator Chanley Small, the internship program allowed students to explore areas of study outside of the normal JanTerm offerings.

“The JanTerm internships are a great opportunity for students to follow a specific passion that is not addressed in our on campus courses,” said Small. “They can delve deeply into a subject with real world experiences in labs, businesses and other industries.”

She began working with students back in September to refine their ideas for internships. Small organized the internship program and served as a mentor to students. Along with teachers Anna Major and Nurfatimah Merchant, Small met with the interns weekly to discuss progress. They also visited the internships in the Atlanta area to check students’ progress. Participants in the program were also required to create a final project, and every night they read books or articles that correspond to their internship. These internship mentors were certainly kept busy; last year, there were only 10 students in the program, all seniors. This year, 32 students were interns, representing both the junior and senior classes.

“I’m interested in the day-to-day life of a surgeon, and I can’t learn that sitting in a classroom,” said junior Will Miller, who interned for a spine orthopedic surgeon at Peachtree Orthopedic Surgery Center.

Miller, who shadowed surgeon Hal Silcox, was able to see surgery firsthand. When Silcox operated on a patient, Miller was able to stand at the head of the patient and view all the processes involved in orthopedic surgery.

“Surgery is the fun part of being a doctor,” said Miller. “There is a lot more opportunity to learn in a surgery because you can see the anatomy of the patient. The doctor can point to what they are doing, so you can see what is going on.”

However, part of shadowing a surgeon is doing the more monotonous work, so Miller also worked several days a week in Silcox’s clinic discussing treatment plans and meeting with patients before surgery.

Many students found themselves behind the operating table this JanTerm, including junior Lauren Mobley, who shadowed pediatric surgeon Jonathan Meisel at Emory University School of Medicine. As well as accompanying Meisel to the operating room, Mobley followed him through his conferences with patients and other doctors and residents at the hospital.

“I wanted to do this particular internship to see if pediatric surgery could actually be my future career,” said Mobley.

Even though Mobley has been interested in a medical profession for most of her life, she was still surprised by some aspects of the job.

“Although I [was] not able to help out with any of the surgeries because of age,” said Mobley, “there is a huge physical commitment that comes with the early hours and the standing up for extended periods of times, the longest being around five hours.”

Even though she could not actually aid in the surgery, she grabbed gloves and other supplies for the doctors. Also, while she is watching, Meisel made a point to explicate the specifics in the surgery so she can understand the process.

Mobley was not the only intern at Emory University. Senior Sabrina Sparkes interned at a vascular surgery research lab at the university. Sparkes, who was drawn to the internship because of her experience working there during summer 2015, found that she had a diverse array of responsibilities.

“I [did] a lot of small stuff, like cleaning fridges and organizing, [but I also did] big stuff like collecting data on cells,” said Sparkes.

Collecting data and adding to the body of research is Sparkes’ favorite part of the work.

“[The internship program] really expands upon the classroom and helps in deciding which career to pursue,” said Sparkes.

Like Mobley, Sparkes was surprised by some parts of the job. She noted that working at Emory was sometimes lonely, although she was gratified to be contributing her data.

Although many students interning may appear to be exploring scientific fields, some students pursued different interests. Junior Myles Hudson interned for Kaufman & Forman P.C., a law firm. Drawn to study law through the school’s Mock Trial team, Hudson was able to intern under the team’s coach, Alex Kaufman. While at the firm, Hudson was constantly reading background information on different cases, exhibits, or deposition transcripts. Some nights, his readings exceeded 200 pages.

“The readings are taxing on both my mind and my sleep schedule,” said Hudson.  “I don’t drink coffee, but I’ve learned to like the taste of English tea to keep myself awake during long stretches of time.”

Hudson also spent a lot of time in meetings with clients, and noted that people skills are vital to building strong attorney to client relationships. Because Hudson knows his mentor, he was able to sit in on more client meetings than the typical intern. This required a high level of confidentiality on Hudson’s part.

“I’m not allowed to disclose details like the names and locations of clients, which makes things a little difficult when my friends and parents ask me how my day went,” said Hudson.

Junior Vivek Garimella was also able to work closely with clients at his internship through Ripple IT Services in Atlanta.

“I didn’t expect to be as directly involved with the clients as I actually [was],” said Garimella. “They’ve trusted me more than I could have ever imagined to work with their clients and help them, which is risky for any company working with high schoolers.”

Closer to home, Evelyn Gould interned at the Lower School as a teacher’s assistant in Kimberly Rimmer’s and Jennifer Griffith’s pre-first class. Gould was essentially an auxiliary teacher to the 18 children in the class. As well as spending all day with the children, Gould read several education books about teaching kids to write fiction and nonfiction stories.

“The best part of the internship has definitely been the kids,” said Gould. “They all call me Miss Evelyn, and it never fails to make me smile.

Aspiring to become an elementary school teacher, Gould jumped at the chance to intern at the Lower School while the children were in school as well. Like Gould, nearly all the interns sought internships in the career fields they plan to enter. While they warn potential future interns about the intense workload, all of the students interviewed recommended the program because it helped opened the gateway to possible careers.

“I’m confident that this internship will either pique or completely destroy my interest,” said Hudson. “So far, it’s done the former.”