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Thursday February 2nd

From Tel Aviv to Chapel Hill, three Tar Heels share their summer internship stories

<p>Curtis Smith, a psychology major, is one of many UNC students who traveled outside the state for a summer internship experience. Smith spent 11 weeks at the University of South Florida's Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute as a summer research institute scholar. Photo courtesy of Curtis Smith.</p>
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Curtis Smith, a psychology major, is one of many UNC students who traveled outside the state for a summer internship experience. Smith spent 11 weeks at the University of South Florida's Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute as a summer research institute scholar. Photo courtesy of Curtis Smith.

This summer, UNC students took learning beyond the classroom by pursuing internships. Undergraduates spent time all over the United States and abroad working with companies and organizations in both paid and unpaid positions.

Research Beyond the Classroom

Psychology major Curtis Smith spent 11 weeks in Florida at the University of South Florida's Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, where he worked as a summer research institute scholar. 

“Going into the program we got to basically design our own projects to conduct,” Smith said. 

Smith has a passion for the intersection of psychology and law, and knew he wanted to incorporate that into his research.

“I was able to develop a project that looked at outcomes within Family Dependency Treatment Court, which is basically a court for parents who have children taken away by child welfare due to substance misuse," Smith said.

The court works to assist parents in finding substance abuse treatment and ultimately unite them with their children. Smith spent his summer evaluating the program.

A typical day at work involved going to court and watching the progression of cases, Smith said, so he could immerse himself in the court process. 

Before the internship, Smith said he viewed research as something in academia that was only done for school.  

“It’s that beyond-the-classroom aspect of it,” Smith said. “Actually working with the community program that is influencing people’s lives, them trusting me and my work and my intelligence to help make the program better — it made me feel good that I was actually helping people and knowing that what I was saying and finding and researching was actually going to be taken into account.”

Two Internships in Tel Aviv

Junior Julia Hirschfield took her talents across the globe by doing two internships in Tel Aviv, Israel. 

During the day, Julia worked as a teacher’s assistant at a school for children of asylum seekers and children from low-income families. At night, she interned at a center for female asylum seekers from Eritrea, a country in Eastern Africa.

At the Bialik-Rogozin School, Hirschfield worked at a summer camp for children. The goal of the camp was to keep the students off the streets in the summer. 

“I helped take care of them, I helped with their lessons, I brought them to the pool and to the movie theater," Hirschfield said. "But I think really the most important thing I did there was helping them establish boundaries with each other and learn to work together and communicate together, kind of just teaching them skills that are very necessary as a kid and as an adult."

For about two months, Sunday through Thursday, she would start at camp with the children. Then, after an hour break, Hirschfield headed to the women’s center to help build resumes, set up email accounts and more.  

Staying Local and Running Numbers 

Junior Stephanie Elise Thomas stayed local with an internship in Chapel Hill, working at Academic Benchmarking Consortium. 

The company provides data services for financial executives within the higher education industry. Thomas worked as a research analyst, organizing financial data, grouping it and figuring out where the money was going.

Thomas said that one of the biggest things she got out of her internship was the mentorship she received and the professional development she experienced. She also got to see what universities were actually spending their money on.

“You know what you’re doing is helping other students like us," Thomas said. "Because by (the university) being able to see where their money is going toward, they’re able to better define their decision making, which overall is going to help the students as a whole.”

university@dailytarheel.com

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