The First Summer

For freshmen, their first summer at the College provides an opportunity for personal exploration and building resumes, if they can afford it

“I’ve been talking to a lot of freshmen, and most of them say that they want to do something unique and not the typical internship in New York where you’re stuck in a cubicle all day,” she said.

Denise J. Kwong ’19, who said she hopes to spend her summer completing an internship abroad, said she wanted a non-classroom experience due to the her otherwise academic focus during the school year.

“I kind of want something that’s more hands-on, just kind of getting [my hands] dirty in the field,” she said. “I would prefer a more immersive experience rather than a classroom experience.”

Christi S. Balaki ’18, who conducted lab research at in Florida during her freshman summer, said she had the understanding that freshman summer “doesn’t matter” for future prospects.

“Junior year you’re like, ‘I need an internship!’ But your freshman summer is more like, ‘Let me relax, let me explore before I have to go out and get an internship junior year,’” Balaki said.


Freshman proctor Bryce J. Gilfillian ’12 said that he tells freshman students to look for summer experiences that provide a chance to destress and venture into different fields.

“I encourage students to think smaller. The odds that you get an internship with Goldman after freshman year are slim, but that isn’t what I think you should be doing with your freshmen summer to begin with,” Gilfillian said. “There’s nothing wrong with just going home.”

While a plethora of freshmen plan to spend the summer cultivating personal interests, others still seek opportunities for career development.

“Some people want internships because they are trained to want to do it, because it’s a prestigious thing,” said Avika Dua ’17.

For others, getting a summer internship simply serves as a source of motivation for professional goals.

“To be honest, I definitely see it as a resume builder,” Jackson said.


Although Harvard hosts a database of funding and opportunities for undergraduates, which features sources of funding from OCS, the IOP, the Global Health Institute, and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, among numerous offices, many freshmen said receiving pay or acquiring funding remained a primary concern for their summer plans.

“Harvard has a lot of opportunities and a lot of resources, but at least for me, as a first-gen student, I didn’t know how to access them,” said Vanessa Decembre ’16, speaking of her freshman year experience at the summer opportunities event hosted by the First Generation Student Union.

At the event, panelist Keyanna Y. Wigglesworth ’16, who studied in Peru during her freshman summer, said she felt torn between finding a paid opportunity and returning home.


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