Students head off to varied externships

Some jobs are career oriented, while others are a welcome break from MIT

When Celena Chan ’12 applied for her externship with Bank of America Merrill Lynch last year, she was looking for some real world experience and a look into the professional world.

“I was hoping to get a taste of what finance would be like,” said Chan.

However, she ended up with a whole lot more than she had bargained for. After completing her externship, Chan was offered a summer internship at Bank of America.

“At the end of the externship … I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Chan. “I got an interview a couple weeks later.”

However, it didn’t end there for Chan. After going through the summer internship program, Chan was eventually offered a full-time position at Bank of America.

“We were fortunate enough — because it was competitive — to receive authorization to make her an offer to join us full-time upon graduation,” said Howard D. Sitzer ’74, a director and municipal bond research strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Sitzer was Chan’s sponsor and mentor throughout her IAP externship experience.

“[The externship] certainly contributed to her being selected for the internship,” said Sitzer, “and then her experience as an intern absolutely was a precursor to her being presented with an offer.”

The Externship Program, started in 1997, matches MIT students with MIT alums for a one-month work experience over IAP. Students apply through the Alumni Association website, and externship sponsors review the applicants for compatibility with the position. The sponsors then send back a list of qualified students, and an algorithm generates matches. This year, a record number of 294 MIT students will be participating in the Externship Program.

Terence Hsu ’13 has an externship with Bank of America Merrill Lynch this January. As an extern, Hsu will be “rotating through several desks, helping the traders compute their PNLs,” and “some kind of hedging and strategic work as well.”

For Hsu, co-president of the Sloan Business Club, the Externship Program is an opportunity to get a foot in the door in a company like Bank of America, which offers a select few internships over the summer.

“Externships usually lead to a high chance of getting a return offer for the summer,” said Hsu.

However, not all externships are highly technical or career-oriented. Some are arguably the exact opposite, offering students the opportunity to completely disconnect from their courses for a few weeks.

Jessica Lin ’12 spent four weeks on a farm in France, clearing and preparing the land for the spring.

“It was hard manual labor,” said Lin.

A Course 6, Lin had been considering various coding jobs for IAP. However, the allure of the French countryside got the best of her.

“I did apply to it because it was pretty special,” said Lin. “I can program for the rest of my life.”

MIT can often be an intense place. For Lin, the externship was a “refresher.”

“If there’s an experience that you don’t think you could have again outside of MIT or when you enter your real life, you should take it now,” said Lin. “You can worry about your career later.”