Building your own summer

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Like many students, Adrienne Chang's summer plans changed drastically this spring. Chang, a member of the Class of 2023, planned to spend most of her summer in Germany as part of the Princeton-in-Munich program offered by the Department of German. As the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic progressed, it became clear that studying abroad was no longer an option. 

Faced with uncertainty, Chang started to build her own summer experience to help her gather insight into her interests and possible career paths. While disappointed she would no longer be spending the summer in Germany, she recognized she had a unique opportunity to explore new skills and values.   

"There were a few things I had to think about. One being, I was initially going to finish my language requirement through the Princeton-in-Munich program," said Chang. "Luckily my professor is offering the course online this summer. I'll still be taking it online and finishing my language proficiency in German this summer. The second thing was trying to get some sort of insight into my future as far as a career."

As a pre-med student and athlete, Chang does not have much time during the academic year to explore. She decided to search for opportunities that could provide insight into medical careers, which would help her confirm her course of study: "I have had limited time to gain experiences to determine whether or not I really want to go into the medical field, and then within healthcare and medicine, what would I necessarily be interested in?"

Browsing the list of summer work opportunities from alumni compiled by the Center for Career Development, Chang found an opportunity with Dr. Jennifer Patterson, a member of the Class of 1998. Patterson, who is serving as chief scientific officer of research and development startup BIOFABICS, posted an opportunity for students to spend the summer under her supervision performing a scientific literature study and writing an article to be published in a peer-reviewed international scientific journal. Chang applied for the opportunity and was selected. 

"I thought it'd be really interesting to learn more about the research side of medicine and biomedical engineering, gaining a little bit of insight into that field," said Chang. "It'll be a good experience because I'll probably have to do science reviews in the future as I continue my education. That's more of the skill-based learning that I also set as a goal for this summer." 

In addition to her studies and project work with Dr. Patterson, Chang will be providing online tutoring through the Pace Center and pursuing a personal goal of learning basic programming in R and Python. Chang noted support from Princeton has been an essential component for helping her identify and pursue opportunities where her career and academic interests align.

"The Center for Career Development is really helpful, and I think that students in general are a little hesitant to reach out for help, especially being at Princeton we're very individually driven and we haven't had to ask for much help before. I think that the Center for Career Development is extremely important to help with navigating your summer."