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Northwestern University

Internships and Volunteering

Despite the image of a university as an "ivory tower," there is a symbiotic relationship between what you study in the classroom and its practice in the "real world." Your academic concerns fuel your interest in their practical implications, and the practical experience you gain through outside projects helps refine, refocus, and deepen your study in the classroom. Depending on your interests, there are numerous options for taking your intellectual concerns outside the classroom.


Many students believe that they should get internships solely because of the work experience they provide. However, internships can also be great ways for students to explore new environments, link their studies to real-world problems, pursue independent research, and develop ideas for projects such as senior theses.

With some planning ahead, any work experience can be reconceived as an internship. Talk to your departmental and College Advisers for some suggestions about this and about how an internship can further your academic interests and goals.

Next steps


Volunteering is a worthwhile and enriching experience that provides an opportunity to become a part of a community, to help those in need, and to learn and practice skills of your own. It can be as meaningful to you as it is to those you help.

Volunteering can also give your academic work palpable form by letting you explore options for your future and can prepare you for your post-Northwestern career. Someone studying economics and gender could connect with a domestic violence shelter. A student who wants to be a doctor could volunteer at a hospital or with a group planning a walk to raise money for cancer research. A student writing a thesis about racial identity in literature could volunteer with an advocacy organization related to issues explored in the thesis.

Next steps

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