Seniors participate in engaging internships

Many students at Westlake work summer jobs or internships to earn money or learn more about a potential career. Some of those jobs can be quite unique, exciting, unusual, educational or inspirational. Seniors Keyur Mehta and Mason Sieling both pursued very different internships this summer. Keyur gave back to the community, and Mason traveled overseas to pursue the learning process information technology.

Mason was born in Luxembourg, then moved to England and finally to the U.S, where she settled in Texas. Mason’s father still has connections to family and friends in Luxembourg though. She heard from her dad that his friend, the boss of an Information Technology company in Luxembourg, was giving an internship to his daughter, so Mason asked the boss if she could do an internship as well. The boss accepted and Mason’s family helped her get ready in a two- week whirlwind of activity. The process happened so fast that it was overwhelming for her.

“I was nervous but extremely excited to venture out on my own,” Mason said. “It opened my eyes to my future’s potential.”

Mason’s internship lasted for two and a half weeks.

“It was a really great experience, especially to have before college,”Mason said. “It was good to live by myself and see what it was like to work and be completely independent. It was hard at first, getting sorted in a new culture.”

Mason is continuing to work at internships, through mentorship, a class that places students in their career fields of interest, Mason found a IT internship inn downtown Austin.

“[My internship in Luxembourg] was a lot different [than the Austin internship],” she said. “The people are different, but not in a negative way. It was different being away from my parents and having to work and take care of myself, but it made the experience 10 times better.”

Luxembourg is a country itself independent from Belgium. The culture and the languages spoken there are very diverse.

“They speak French, Luxembourgish and German,” Mason said. “I tried to learn as much as I could in the time I spent there. Most of the employees there spoke some English, and if they didn’t, we just guessed around. “It was challenging at first. Most of the time they spoke French or German, so it was harder to be part of the environment. I learned so much so fast.”

Mason shared a work schedule with her boss from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., since she lived in a shared apartment with some of the employees on the worksite while she was there.

Although she was homesick, Mason enjoyed learning independently. This was the first time Mason had been outside the U.S. without her family. Her boss’s daughter who MAson knew previously, interned with Mason for the first week, but other than that she was on her own and without familiar faces around her. However, Mason felt welcomed and the entire workforce was friendly.
“I would go back again if I had the chance,” Mason said. “It was such a great experience, and I would recommend it to anyone else.”

Mason originally wanted to go into business management as a career, but the internship altered her views.

“It’s definitely changed my perspective,” Mason said. “Maybe if I went into the financial industry, it would be technology based. But I don’t know-I’m still learning.”
Now, Mason is thinking about going into IT. Mason learned a lot about programming and distribution during her internship.

“I’m thinking about going into IT design and sales management, but that’s only an idea,” Mason said.

Keyur enrolled in the eight-week Bank of America student leaders program over the summer through Mentorship with the support of his family and friends. To become part of this program, he had to apply through BOA, which then selected five people per major market, such as Austin. Every year, BOA partners with a non-profit and sends the selected interns to help them. This year’s non-profit organization was Communities In Schools, which is a school dropout prevention program. Keyur and the four other interns from Austin were split up into teams and went to work with CIS at different school campuses for four weeks, learning how CIS helps the community from the outside. For the second half of the program, they worked inside the CIS headquarters located in downtown Austin.

“Luckily, I had a good understanding about the program because my brother was a Student Leader (intern) the year before me,” Keyur said. “I was really excited to work with the kids and learn the inner workings of one of the nation’s premier nonprofits.”

Keyur was placed at the local Aspire campus, located on I-35. Young moms go to the Aspire campus to get a General Education Diploma and to learn English. The moms also bring their young kids, ages 4 to 12, to the interns for tutoring. Keyur’s job was to teach the kids interaction skills, and how to be excited to go to school every day. Inside the nonprofit organization, he learned how to get funding, how to stay as a nonprofit and how to work with the state government.

Keyur is considering applying to the program again during his senior year.

“It was a great experience, and it also included a one week trip to Washington, D.C. to meet the CIS leaders across the nation, Keyur said. “It’s a great way to make new friends and it’s definitely a career field I would like to pursue.”

He has been interested in business, and the internship opened his eyes to nonprofit organizations. Keyur has always seen himself working in the technology industry, but it was rewarding to work in a nonprofit because he was able to see the direct impact on the community.

“[The effect] made the whole experience worth it,” Keyur said. “There was one kid in particular who hated reading because his friends hated reading. But once we convinced him to try it out, he couldn’t keep his head out of a book. Even just one 7-year-old discovering reading would have made it all worthwhile.”

Keyur’s time at the Aspire campus was similar to a summer camp. The work times could vary from 9 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m. and the dress code was shorts and a t-shirt.

“I loved working with the kids,” Keyer said.”At first, the kids were hesitant to be at a summer camp. They wanted to hang out with their friends or be at home, but they started to like it and at the end they were all having a great time.”

The actual CIS office has structured business hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Keyur had to dress in a business suit.

“We were treated like employees and they assigned us important projects,” Keyur said.
The interns’ first project was to collect, sort and evaluate all the workshops at the national conference of CIS where the members of CIS meet all the state affiliates. The interns had to evaluate the presenters and select those CIS should invite again for the next conference. They also had to evaluate the conference and find ways to make it more successful in the future.

“I loved working with the kids,” Keyer said. “At first, the kids were hesitant to be at a summer camp. They wanted to hang out with their friends or be at home, but they started to like it and at the end they were all having a great time.”

Working inside the nonprofit itself was less fun, but it was a lot more realistic in what he could pursue as a career.
“The most challenging part for me was that the internship was a big commitment,” Keyur said. “I wanted to do other things this summer, like work in a lab at U.T., so it was hard to try to make them both work.”
It was also challenging for him to try to convince the kids that school was important to their future and not a waste of their time. The most challenging aspect for him in the office was to sort out all the funding and convince all the donors to contribute to CIS.

“One of the best parts of the internship was never having to face challenges alone,” Keyur said. “There was always a team of student leaders that could step in and support you. The challenges were definitely beneficial, though. Because they helped portray the non-profit experience in the truest light possible.”

Keyur’s family was really supportive of him throughout the process. He found out about the program from his brother who interned there last year. Keyur learned how nonprofits operate.

“I learned patience and how to work with kids,” Keyur said. “I would definitely encourage someone else to take an internship in high school.”

Working with CIS gave him insight on what it’s like to work in a business and be a businessman.

“It was an awesome time [to see] what you’re interested in and want to pursue for college,” Keyur said.

He didn’t imagine himself doing anything like this. His summers are usually science and math based; he’s done camps and programs. There were a couple of programs that he was interested in doing if he didn’t get the internship. A math and science camp in New Mexico or a program at the University of Pennsylvania for business were some of his other choices. His BOA internship was 8 weeks long so he had to choose it over all the other things he wanted to do.

The most interesting or unusual thing he learned was how to balance physical activity and learning for the kids; if they exercised too much, they would get tired and if they didn’t have any exercise while learning, they would get bored.

“I loved every second of the internship,” Keyur said. “I got to work with kids,learn about non-profits, and meet amazing kids from around the nation at the leadership conference. If I could do it again, I would. I recommend it wholeheartedly to any juniors and seniors for this next summer.”