Category Archives: Summer 2016 Stories

How Ministry Became a Career Option

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Ela Hefler is a senior History Major from Toronto, Canada. This summer she had the opportunity to explore the possibility of a career in Ministry through Davidson’s Ministry Fellowship Program

Before coming to Davidson I had only met one ordained person: the Catholic priest at the church where my family worshiped sporadically. With the exception of the one time I took confession before my first communion we never talked. I couldn’t tell you his name, and by the time I finished primary school my family had almost completely stopped attending mass. I never considered myself Catholic and didn’t give much consideration to whether God existed or not.

church at night At Davidson, that changed, slowly, then seemingly all at once. I got involved in Davidson’s interfaith group, Better Together, as a secular person. Through meals, conversations and celebrations I began to understand the fundamental role faith can play in a person’s identity. I realized that if I really wanted to know my friends and peers, I could no longer dismiss the importance of religion and religious understanding. Interfaith work also prompted me to dig deeper into my own beliefs. When I began to let go of a binary understanding of faith I started to find that a lot of the language and values of Christianity helped me find depth and grounding in my own identity, as well as my responsibilities to other people and relationships.

It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around how, in three years, I went from never having met an ordained woman to considering ministry as a vocation and accepting a nine-week summer “fellowship in religious vocation and leadership.” When I tell people I spent my summer interning at a church, most people ask – very tentatively – whether I want to be a minister. The answer is, I don’t know.

For years, I had planned to go into International Relations or Development. Davidson was the only college I applied to without an IR major, which may be how I ended up falling in love with history and domestic policy. Though my academic interests had changed, my plans for after college had not. That is until I paused to look back on my time at Davidson and realized the two areas I had invested the most time and energy were academic diversity and religious life. I realized my career goals hadn’t kept pace with my growing and changing passions, and that I wanted a career grounded in relationships rather than politics, and focused on domestic issues and communities.

Every summer Davidson College offers five rising seniors the opportunity to explore congregational ministry through the Ministry Fellowship in Religious Vocation and Leadership. The fellowship begins with an eight to ten week summer internship with an experience clergy member, and the fellows continue to meet regularly to discuss vocational discernment throughout their senior years. Students of all religious backgrounds are invited to apply.

However challenging I found the idea of ordination I knew a summer exploring ministry would give me the chance to explore in the ways I wanted to. And it did. I spent nine weeks at First Congregational Church of Minnesota, a United Church of Christ congregation in Minneapolis. It was a phenomenal experience, and I still don’t know if I want to go into ministry.

a sign in front of a church that reads "to our Muslim neighbours a blessed ramadan"But, here’s what I do know – ministry is hard, and hard to define. Over the course of nine weeks I led prayers, gave communion, wrote and delivered a sermon, planned a vespers service, helped with home visits and attended a weekly bible study with local ministers of a different denomination. I also volunteered at a food pantry and an interfaith garden, created and ran a church Instagram account, protested the police killings of Philando Castile and Anton Sterling, helped organize a vigil for the victims of the Orlando massacre and ordered lawn signs for the church and our members, which read “To our Muslim neighbors a blessed Ramadan”.

I know that I am a better listener after this summer. I have learned to recognize the value of simply being a “non-anxious presence” when there are no answers and you’ve said all you can. I have begun to let go of the fear that I am not “Christian enough” to go into ministry or contribute to a conversation about bible texts. I’ve started to think about how church can be verb, or a conceptual noun, and not just a fixed location with a steeple.

I’m grateful to Davidson College, and the Chaplain’s Office in particular, for walking with me as I stepped beyond my comfort zone to explore a career and a field I had never thought to imagine myself in.

Snapshot of Sofia

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Original post written by Yiyao Xie ’18, participant in the DavidsonIE Internship Program.

If you asked me just three months ago what I would be doing this summer, I would have never imagined I’d have the opportunity to intern in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. When I received my internship offer from Dronamics, a startup that develops unmanned cargo aircraft, I was a little bit hesitant to accept. I knew very little about Bulgaria; it was a country that I imagined was different from anything I had previously experienced, with a culture that was completely foreign to me as well.

My gut instinct was telling me to go with it, though, and now I am so thankful that I made this decision.

This is my first time in Europe, and it is the realization of a life-long dream; I’ve been wanting to go to Europe ever since I was a little girl in China. Bulgaria is very different from what I envisioned before my arrival. It may be because of the country’s previous experience with communism that I found a lot of similarities between Bulgaria and China, especially architecturally. From the outside, the apartment that I stay in here looks exactly like the apartment I lived in as a child.

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How to Succeed in a Startup Without a Tech Background

lightbulb-innovation-1078x516Original post written by Allie Cowie ’18, participant in the DavidsonIE Internship Program.

Even though I grew up in Silicon Valley, I never thought of myself as a tech kind of gal. While it was cool to live near Google, Apple and Facebook HQ, I didn’t have much interest in computer science, which I assumed was a prerequisite for 99 percent of the jobs my friends’ parents held. It took leaving the Bay Area and coming to Davidson to make me realize how wrong I was.

Although having a computer science background is certainly a necessity for many tech roles, Davidson and its Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program have helped me realize that my liberal arts education is actually an asset here in Palo Alto, rather than a hindrance. As a Hispanic Studies major with no coding experience, I’m not programming or building apps, but what I am doing is just as valuable to the startup I work for–VersaMe, which was founded in part by Chris and Jon Boggiano, Davidson’s Entrepreneurs in Residence.

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Stapleton Intern Experiences Summer of Discovery

This post was contributed by Daisy Jones '19.
This post was contributed by Daisy Jones ’19.

This summer I worked at Dove’s Nest in Charlotte.   Dove’s Nest is a women’s rehabilitation center for substance abuse. My job was to basically spend time with the women and hear about their stories. Everyday I sat in on group therapy sessions, attended classes and workshops, and ate lunch with the women. I also did various organizational tasks for my supervisor. Additionally, I had the opportunity to help out  in the admissions department of Dove’s Nest. This meant that I helped orient new residents to the program and gave them their materials.

I worked at Dove’s Nest through the Stapleton/Davidson Urban Service Internship program. This is a program that is offered every year through the Chaplain’s Office. Its focus is to understand issues of urban poverty and homelessness through non-profit work in the city of Charlotte. My time at Dove’s Nest flew by incredibly fast, and before I knew it, I was already saying goodbye.

My final day at Dove’s Nest, I left in tears and was still sobbing on the city bus, all the way back to my host family’s home.

It is difficult to pinpoint one specific reason I was crying so hard. One motivation that stands out to me is that I thought I was going to have a better chance to say goodbye to the women I loved so dearly. I sat in on my last group therapy session and the women in this group said their goodbyes then, but I kept saying back to every woman, “I’ll see you later.” At lunch, it was the same routine. I kept telling all the women I sat with everyday that I would see them later in the day. Sadly though, this wasn’t true. I ended up being treated to lunch by my supervisor and another co-worker, and did not make it back in time to say goodbye to anyone. The overwhelming realization washed over me that I would never be in the same place again. The women would be different, the people different, the stories different. I was so mad that I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye, but I also wondered to myself if it would make any difference. I know that this experience at Dove’s Nest had touched me, but had it really touched them in the same way?

I used to be concerned with this question of “how much impact have I made on these people?” and “what tangible difference can I see?”  But after this summer, my questions of worth are ones like “what have I learned?” and “how can I see things differently from the way I have seen them before?” and “how much impact have these other people made on me?” I was crying on the bus because there was an overwhelming answer to all of these questions, on top of a genuine concern that I didn’t get to fully say thank you to the women at Dove’s Nest for all they had done for me.

This job was not about outcome or success, rather building relationships with people based off our common humanity.

The Stapleton showed me how to work towards loving people exactly as they are. It showed me that there is nothing more I can do to be seen as lovely or worthy. It reminded me of this essential truth in everyone, and inspired me to see people in this way. I believe I was weeping on the bus in part because I made the realization that we still cast men and women away. We are conditioned to come up for justifications for why “they deserve” to be homeless, an addict, poor, and we are so conditioned to ignore the simple truth that we are all worthy. This summer opened my eyes like never before to this truth, and challenged me to think of the moments where I have simply cast others away.

Through my tears on that final day, I saw out of the corner of my eye a tissue in the hand of an African-American man. I looked up and held eye contact with this stranger for a moment, when I realized that this man was familiar. He was actually the only person I remember from the bus route consistently. He got on at West Boulevard, what many native Charlotte-eans refer to as “rough part of town” and rode the same bus to uptown where I got off everyday to get to my host family’s house. This act of kindness made me cry even harder than I was crying before. Through my tears, I somehow mustered the words, “thank you.” When the bus got to my stop, I walked out towards the door. I turned back to give that man one last look. He looked at me and nodded. I got off the bus. I will never learn that man’s name. I will never get to tell him how much that moment meant to me. Simply, he showed me that he loved me, without knowing me, without knowing if I was “worthy.”

The Stapleton was so much more than a work experience. It changed the way I think about theology, homelessness, poverty, and my response as a person of faith. In fact, it is hard for me to really think about this experience as “work.” I met some of my favorite women at Dove’s Nest, that I never would have had the chance to meet if it wasn’t for this internship program and the Chaplain’s Office. I am eternally grateful for this internship, for the Chaplain’s Office, and for that tissue from that stranger.

Working at a Non-Profit in Beijing: Americans Promoting Study Aboard

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Original post written by Tai Tran ’18, participant in the Davidson in East Asia Internship Program.

My experience at Americans Promoting Study Abroad has confirmed quite a few things I have read about working with non-profit organizations. First of all I would like to point out that this is an organization I have had quite a big insight and familiarity with before asking for an internship position for. APSA began with partnerships with quite a few other non-profit organizations. The idea was to have these other organizations who were more well established help APSA get on its feet and walk alone. However, that was never really achieved. Thus, we have the situation I am in now. An organization that is about eight years old yet does not have the stable base that it should have at this point. In our team of three, with two staff members from the One World Now organization, this summer we have a group of 21 students and a curriculum that we build as we go. There is far too much work to be done and there is only one full time staff member here in Beijing, our Executive Director. Being overworked and understaffed, that was my impression of a non-profit organization.

But many people would never believe the results we are able to churn out. To get so much done, with only a few staff members, within a limited amount of time, and resources, in my opinion we are all amazing here at APSA. And I am sure this is true for many other non-profits. The amount of fun and self discovery I have been able to enjoy during my internship has only left me with a positive impression. My research skills came in handy when it came to formulating short summaries of sites with hundreds of years of history and significance. My experience at Davidson College has taught me to wear many hats at one time in order to help us stick to a schedule or program. Although I have yet to actually find myself applying what I have learned in classes, other than my Chinese language classes, I have taken at Davidson College, my experience with extra-curricular clubs and networking has given me a better grasp of the real world and what it means to get work done at Americans Promoting Study Abroad.

Read more posts from the Davidson in East Asia Internship Program.

Working in Singapore

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Original post written by Jack Shumway ’19, participant in the Davidson in East Asia Internship Program.

For a product-testing and certification company, Singapore is a great place to do business. The country itself is fixated  on quality and fervent in its desire to produce world class products, both of which lead to demanding regulations and a constant need for testing and certification. But opportunity also flows in from beyond the country’s compact borders. Singapore’s grade-A business infrastructure, and business-friendly rule of law make it a regional business hub for all of southeast Asia. Businesses in neighboring countries seeking to market products beyond their own borders naturally turn to Singapore for testing and certification services, making it a  truly ideal place for such a company like TÜV-SÜD to set up shop.

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Data Analytics as a Stand-In for Life

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Original post written by Kenny Xu ’19, participant in the DavidsonIE Internship Program.

Living alone for the first time is hard enough.  Living alone for the first time, working 40 hours a week in an industry you’ve barely touched – data analytics (as a likely English major) – that’s a little harder.

But like most Davidson students, I like a good challenge. Had I been flushed down a vapid, unstimulating internship with little to do except get coffee for my boss, I might have exploded.  That’s why it’s so fortunate that my stint so far at Stratifyd Inc. has been nothing short of eye-opening.  So new is this upstart startup in the lanky suburbs of South Charlotte that I was treated just like a full-time employee.  I was constantly pulled into meetings with senior executives, grafted with something only heard in college-student legends, perhaps in whispers or rumors but rarely ever documented – real responsibility.  It is this blessed “real responsibility” that has defined my tenure here at Stratifyd, and something that, now that I have it, I never want to let go.

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Wildcats in Washington: At the Intersection of Policy and Diplomacy

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Original story written by Maria Antonia Bravo ’18, participant in the Davidson in Washington program.

Last year, I was in the heart of the Colombian jungle, seeking answers as to why the production of a fruit that a whole village depended on had significantly dropped. Fast forward a year, and I am stuck in the D.C. metro – among its multiple repairs and detours – trying to figure out which line and direction I should get on to get to my internship.

What do these two experiences have in common? Well, of course the protagonist (me), Davidson’s support, and the fear factor of the unknown and unfamiliar. Interning at the Meridian International Center while being part of the Davidson in Washington program has fostered a seamless intersection of my interests in political science and Latin American studies. At Meridian, I am working for the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI), a White House Initiative established by President Obama in 2016. YLAI will bring 250 social and business entrepreneurs from Latin America and the Caribbean to the U.S. in October for a four-week fellowship. During this time, the participants will be paired with a fellowship host from a U.S-based company with the goal of gaining valuable professional development skills to advance their own entrepreneurial ventures.

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An Inspiring Summer in the Big Apple

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Original post written by Boluwatife Odumosu ’17, participant in the DavidsonIE Internship Program.

If anyone told me three years ago that I would one day have the privilege of living and working in New York City, I would immediately have laughed at them. The reason being, before arriving at Davidson College, certain opportunities seemed more like fairy tales, or wishful thinking. Yet the past couple of years have been a massive testament of how my Davidson education has enlightened and exposed me to very remarkable experiences and learning opportunities that have, without a doubt, built the person I am today.

The Davidson IE internship opportunity with Exubrancy is yet another powerful contribution to my professional, intellectual and personal growth and development. The past few weeks have been a series of unexpected encounters, unfathomable challenges, inspirations and personal investment. At no other point in my life have I been more conscious of my future aspirations and of myself. This city does that to you. I believe with everyone so determined and hungry here, I definitely have felt more inspired to be a better ‘me’ this summer. To really explain what the summer has been like so far, I have decided to break down my reflection into two categories: experiences within the workplace, and those beyond the workplace.

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Trial by Fire

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Original post written by Molly Mathes ’17, participant in the DavidsonIE Internship Program.

Only two weeks of my internship had passed when I heard “trial by fire,” a phrase that I hadn’t realized I was missing until a prospective member jokingly described my job as such. I laughed it off but quickly realized how appropriately it described the way I was feeling early on. I’m now in my fourth week as the Community Ambassador for HQ Charlotte at Packard Place, a co-working facility and entrepreneurship hub at the heart of the quickly growing Charlotte start-up scene. Known as simply Packard Place when it was founded five years ago, Packard recently merged with HQ Community and joined several other HQ locations with the hope of becoming the premiere co-working network throughout the Southeast. The environment is fast-paced and full of new challenges each day, a feeling that straddles the line between energizing and overwhelming, especially during the first couple of weeks.

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