Vicky Wu ’17 set off for her externship with high hopes but few preconceptions. She knew externing at NSW Corp. in Portland, Ore., with Carleton parent Laird McCulloch P’12, P’15 and Kyle Raines would teach her about real estate investments. She hoped it might give her food for thought about a career path. And she assumed, like many do, it resemble job shadowing—simply observing professionals going about their days.
She was wrong.
“With a job shadow, you follow someone around and see what they would do in a normal day. Externships are more about active learning,” Vicky says. “Laird and Kyle definitely changed their schedule for me, so I could see anything I wanted to about their jobs. Every day they asked me, ‘What do you want to learn today?’”
Her externship proved to be a crash course in both real estate and finance. In just ten days, she saw how her hosts manage both property and investments, heard their expert insights on what makes for good investments, and learned about finance, cash flow, and marketing. McCulloch and Raines drove her around Portland, took her out to dinners, and arranged informational interviews for her with bankers, lawyers, real estate agents, architects, and contractors.
This broad spectrum of activities was extremely beneficial to Wu as a sophomore just beginning to consider her options. She was able to see the company—and industry—from a wide perspective, understanding how all parts work together and everything her hosts could potentially be doing on any given day. In contrast, an internship is usually more targeted and helps a student hone a particular skill set; its focus is depth, not breadth.
Wu feels her externship had multiple advantages. For one, it was short. She was able to complete her externship over winter break, with time to spare. For another, it was all about learning and exploring. While internships are very job-focused, externships might only include small, concrete projects—for example, Wu completed a project on social media as part of her externship for NSW.
And not only did she learn about careers, Wu says she refined her own goals. Soon after her externship, she declared a major in economics and decided she will probably remain in the United States rather than return home to China.
Wu encourages her fellow students to apply for externships, too, and hopes to offer externship opportunities to future students when she becomes an alumna.
“My externship was just amazing,” she says. “It might sound exaggerated, but I would like to think that this experience really changed my life.”