Mentor Externship: Work As Part of a Bigger Life

16 June 2009

Carleton gave me the skills to be successful, but the insight I gained through my alumni host in the College’s Mentor Externship Program is what has given me the confidence to follow my passion for international business.

Living in London during high school, I commuted with thousands of other Londoners on their way to work in the morning, then back in the evening on my way home from crew practice. I never felt like I really knew the city, though. I was always cloistered within the confines of my tiny international school, in my tiny American community. International business always seemed just a little bit out of reach. That was what my friends’ parents did—not something I needed to know about at the time.

Through the Externship program I had the chance to experience London as a working person in the city. It was an invaluable experience being matched with another Carl. I was never relegated to the position of the faceless college student as I had been at so many other businesses, in internships or summer jobs. My host was my mentor and together we worked on projects that were truly useful because they weren’t menial tasks planned for an intern. Rather than fetching coffee, I learned what it was that successful business people do because I was actually involved in real projects that my host was working on. And work we did…

Carleton is a tough college. I think that is generally a given. However, there are some things that Carleton can’t teach students about the working world that alums can. First lesson: waking up at 4 in the morning to take the Eurostar from London to Paris for a business meeting at 9 AM is hard. Carleton is fast paced, but nothing compared to the circus of commuting, groceries, Christmas parties, family members, birthdays and late work nights. Where do working people find the time to bathe? Which leads me to the second lesson: it is even harder to look presentable for said meeting.

This experience never would have been possible without the Carleton alumni network and their willingness to share their lives with current Carleton students. Besides learning about what occurs throughout the daily processes of international business, I learned the importance of having someone to guide me through those processes.

I am grateful for the knowledge and the connections I gained through my externship, and I join the working world this summer with the familiarity and optimism to carry me into the international business community.

Ariel VandeVoorde ’09 is a Sociology/Anthropology major who has worked at the ACT Center and served on several committees at Carleton.