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The phone call informing Max Courval that he had scored his first professional internship came while he was waiting in line to get lunch. It was a welcome interruption.
He was in line at Qdoba in the ASU Memorial Union when he received a call from a representative of Valley Metro offering him an internship in the company’s community relations department. Valley Metro plans, develops and operates the regional bus and light rail systems and alternative transportation programs for commuters, seniors and people with disabilities.
“I was interviewed at the beginning of April and received a call a week later. I remember being in line at Qdoba in the MU when I got the call. I almost cried tears of joy, as I was not confident that I was the right fit for the internship,” said Courval, a junior in Barrett Honors College majoring in geography with minors is Spanish and certificates in Brazilian studies and geographic information systems.
Courval started his search for an internship early in 2018 when he attended a career fair held by the ASU School of Geographic Sciences and Urban Planning and met with a Valley Metro representative to ask about internship opportunities.
In May, he started his internship in Valley Metro’s community relations department. The internship, his first, will last until May 2019.
As a community relations intern, his duties are varied and include helping prepare for public meetings, canvassing stakeholders along future light rail extensions, managing stakeholder contacts, and organizing public outreach at tabling events.
He also helps other departments with various projects, such as the Quality of Life Report focusing on how the light rail has grown in the 10 years since its inception. Courval helped analyze various types of data, such as U.S. Census data, regional government reports and municipal data sets.
We asked Courval to tell us about the significance of his internship experience and give advice for fellow students seeking to get some practical work under their belt before graduation.
What are the benefits of completing internships?
Internships allow you to apply the knowledge you learn in college to real world problems. While interpreting data with little relevance in a math class is one thing, it's much more rewarding to do so and see your efforts actually help achieve a goal. Also, internships teach you things that your major may not require you to learn. I thought I knew Excel when I went into the job, but now I realized I barely knew anything! My internship has taught me important skill sets on the spot. Internships are a way to get your foot in the door and allow for professional contacts to be created and maintained, even after the internship ends. Whether one wants to return to the company, or work with a closely related business, it is much easier to find jobs and employment after completing internships.
Did you take HON 484, the course that helps prepare students for internships by having them examine their goals and what they want to do in the future? If so, was it beneficial?
Yes, I am currently taking HON 484. This class is beneficial in many ways. It is a great way to earn honors credit and allows you to reflect more in depth than if you did not take the course. Learning about how to present our experience and the best way to frame that in the context of one's future goals in life has been extremely helpful. The class also has two assigned readings, one from the on-site supervisor, and another from the professor that everyone reads. Being assigned a specific book to read from my supervisor has been tremendously helpful. As a geography major, I knew little about public involvement going into my internship. Not only being assigned a book to read but also having to analyze how the book applies to my specific work experiences has allowed me to have a greater grasp of a subject I previously knew little about. Also, the course requires us to write weekly journals, which are a helpful way to reflect on the week and what I learned. It is also a great way to keep track of tasks and duties I was assigned and will be beneficial in the future to remember what role I played at my internship.
What are you future goals and how does completing internships help you get there?
I am very interested in working with public transportation agencies, and this internship has allowed me to get my foot in the door. I plan to go to graduate school to study urban planning, and my experience at a public transportation agency makes me a competitive candidate. Internships allow me to work on real world projects on a smaller scale, compared to more ideologically driven assignments that I may receive in school.
What advice do you have for other students who may be contemplating doing internships?
I would advise other students to not be afraid of being unqualified to apply for certain internships. While the Valley Metro internship applications said graduate students were preferred, I still applied even though I was only a sophomore undergrad at the time. Internships are an amazing way to gain experience in an area of interest and can help advance your career and help achieve future goals. Go to career fairs. Check online job postings. Use services that ASU offers to help build your resume.