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The Experiential Internship: A Carleton Classic

Zoë explains Carleton's Externship program and highlights her own experience as an extern for a non-profit.

Zoë explains Carleton's Externship program and highlights her own experience as an extern for a non-profit.


The Carleton Career Center hosts a popular event called the “Externship program.” An externship at Carleton—a made up word that stands for an experiential internship—takes place during the 6-week-long winter break period between the end of fall term (around Thanksgiving) to the beginning of winter term (soon after the new calendar year begins). 

Many externships are hosted by Carleton alumni who offer current students positions within their organizations and companies. Positions range in fields from social justice/advocacy to computer science to business/economics and many more. The great benefit is that Carls need not compete with students from other schools for these spots! Externships can take place anywhere in the country and several are even internationally-based. Generally, students can find housing from their externship host, and some Carleton alumni can accommodate Carls who need a place to live for 1-3 weeks.

Finding an Externship Position

Given my interest in animal welfare and activism, I found an appealing externship position that revolved around this passion of mine on Handshake, the online database that all Carleton students have access to through the Career Center. The host of the externship was The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement, a non-profit organization located in Arizona. As an animal lover, proponent of animal welfare activism, and Sociology-Anthropology major curious about the inner workings of a non-profit, this opening aligned perfectly with my interests. I applied for a spot, and was hired alongside a fellow Carleton extern, Jordan ’21.

the aawa
Jordan ’21 and I worked together as externs!

Though typically the externship would take place in person, because of COVID my position as an “Animal Welfare Marketing Extern” was entirely remote. Luckily, the staff members at The Association were organized and prepared to take on the pandemic in a virtual format.

My Externship Experience

The externship started off with an exciting virtual conference. Held for animal welfare professionals, it focused on collaboration between members of the animal welfare sector, acknowledging the common goal of supporting animal shelters and pushing for increased humane treatment toward animals. The need for diversity, equity, and inclusion within animal welfare was also a central topic of conversation. My job over the course of these 3 days was to attend the conference, take notes, and write blurbs about the specific talks I listened in on. With the help of my fellow extern, we put together daily summaries of the conference covering the most important take-aways of the day.

blog posts
The webpage with the blog posts I authored.

Gaining Newly-Acquired Skills

In addition to being an active member of The Association’s Fall Conference, I authored and built industry-specific blogs on WordPress for the official website. Becoming a published contributor on the blog was an amazing opportunity, and I realized I had an aptitude for blogging! Such a discovery inspired me to start my own personal travel blog when I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, a month later. It also helped me to secure my job as the current Blog Editor for the Carleton College Admissions blog (where you’re reading this post right now!).

In addition to writing blog posts, I collaborated with Jordan to develop strategies to drive engagement on The Association’s social media platforms. In doing so, we administered the organization’s Facebook groups to monitor data insights. Picking up Marketing and Communications skills to understand how to optimize the non-profit’s social media outreach to middle-aged animal welfare professionals was a main concern of ours.

canva
Some examples of flyers/pamphlets I designed while trying my hand at Canva.

Finally, I was able to test out my design skills by creating graphics to promote membership for The Association and their certificate program courses. Using Canva and designing pamphlets and flyers was a fun, new practical skill that I picked up. Over the 3 weeks that I collaborated with The Association’s staff, I gained valuable knowledge about the animal welfare sector, how non-profit organizations function, and what Marketing and Communications involves.

virtual externship
Although my externship was remote, it was still worthwhile and I learned a lot.

The Career Center: A Valuable Resource

At the culmination of the externship, the Carleton Career Center asks that you submit a final reflection paper. I was happy with my experience and enjoyed reflecting on what I had accomplished and learned. Afterward, I added my newfound skills to my resume. I also requested a letter of recommendation from my supervisor at The Association. 

I found the Career Center’s Externship Program to be immensely fulfilling, and I intend to apply for another position for this coming winter break! I should also note that the Externship Program is just one of many resources that Carls take advantage of. Other offerings include career coaches (some specifically for pre-health and pre-law), guidance writing cover letters and resumes, mock interviews, free headshots, a robust alumni network/directory, grad school preparation, and more.


Zoë is a junior Sociology-Anthropology major who loves traveling and studying abroad, taking photos, and luxuriating in long walks in the glorious Arb. At Carleton, some of Zoë’s favorite pastimes include frequenting the various coffee shops in downtown Northfield, playing cello in the orchestra, participating in club soccer, and spending time with friends. Meet the other Bloggers!