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avalon fenster internship girl
avalon fenster internship girl
Avalon Fenster
Life > Academics

Avalon Fenster On Creating @InternshipGirl, The Internet’s Big Sister For Early Career Help

From her apartment in New York City, TikTok content creator Avalon Fenster logs on to our Zoom call sporting a baby blue Columbia University hoodie. Even though my conversation with Fenster takes place virtually — with us on opposite ends of the country — talking with Fenster felt like we were sitting next to each other IRL. Her warm and open presence radiates through the bright light of my laptop screen. 

The 21-year-old college student is the creator behind @InternshipGirl, the Instagram and TikTok account that gives college students everything they need to know about internships. Fenster started Internship Girl on winter break from her bedroom in January 2022, and has since built up a community of over 200,000 supporters across her social media platforms.

Fenster’s early career advocacy was inspired by her mom. “[I started Internship Girl] in reflection on the incredible impact that a positive woman role model can have on a young woman. For me, that happened to be my mother, who has played such a monumental role in the way that I’ve developed.” Yet Fenster also recognizes “that not every young woman has a woman, mentor, or role model that they can confide in,” which is something she’s working to change with Internship Girl.

Fenster’s mother was a community organizer and leader for their local chapter of the National Organization for Women. Growing up, Fenster attended meetings that focused on important issues like “body image, campus sexual assaults, and societal pressures from the media and its impact on young women’s perceptions of themselves.” This early advocacy jump-started her passion for equal rights for women in the workplace.

As she got older, Fenster made a career out of her activism. Her role as a policy fellow intern at Pay Our Interns provided her important insight on early career equity. “I contributed to the campaigns that ended up getting White House and State Department interns to be paid for the first time in recent history,” she says. “It was really through that role that I learned a lot about the world, and internship equity, and gaps in early career access on account of racial gender and socioeconomic considerations.”

Outside of running Internship Girl, Fenster is a junior studying political science and double minoring in philosophy and science, public policy, and ethics at Barnard College of Columbia University. It seems like being a college student and running a brand would be a lot for any young person to handle, but Fenster is quick to shut down the internet’s unrealistic, tailored expectations of maintaining a work-life balance. “I realize that there’s an aesthetic to what productivity is supposed to look like, especially for women,” she says. Over the years, TikToks like morning routines and work-from-home setups have become inspirational touchstones for wellness and productivity. “I just never worked well when I tried to accomplish that aesthetic because I realized I was trying to fulfill something that didn’t actually matter to me,” Fenster says. “The way I approach balancing and juggling commitments, especially when it comes to a platform like Internship Girl, is doing what I can when I can.”

In February 2023, Fenster launched her podcast called Internship Girl’s Guide To Greatness. After recognizing how much her audience enjoyed hearing her speak on Instagram Live, Fenster decided to start the podcast to be a mentor for others. “I think that there’s a real power in hearing people speak because in the era of the For You Page and algorithms, you tend to just look at a screen … and you don’t get a sense of who that person is,” Fenster says. She hopes to “touch people in a different way” with her podcast.

Fenster takes great care in understanding who her audience is and acknowledges that they all come from different backgrounds. According to Fenster, her socials reach over 3 million accounts each month, about 90% of which are young women between the ages of 13 to 24 across over 70 countries.

Unfortunately, not all of Fenster’s followers have the support or mobility to pursue their career interests. “A lot of my audience [members] are young women who face very structural barriers to access in their early career,” Fenster says. She receives messages from thousands of people who have heartbreaking stories. “I get responses from young women who are saying ‘My family doesn’t support my career ambitions and your account is the one place I feel seen,’” she shares. One of the ways she tries to support her followers is by offering personalized feedback.  “I have to tailor the advice that I’m giving to things that are very feasible, manageable, and are things that they can just do on their own that are also free,” Fenster says. 

While many of her followers are young women of color who are or will be first-generation, low-income college students, Fenster also found that her more affluent or non-first gen followers also faced early career obstacles, too. Fenster says, “They’re still facing the impacts of living in a very patriarchal society that ultimately values women as accessories rather than leaders and fully autonomous individuals.”

One of Fenster’s early career highlights is creating the community she built within Internship Girl. “The most rewarding part by far, [while] doing dozens of internships and fellowship roles, has been hearing from young women whose lives have changed in some way because I shared something that I learned and encouraged everyone who gains experience in an internship to always remember the power that sharing can have,” Fenster says. 

Fenster is proud to have surpassed one year of running Internship Girl, and is looking forward to transitioning into her next phase of her professional career: to apply to law school. 

Before logging off to head to her next meeting, Fenster teases an upcoming project. She says, “It’s an initiative that’s going to take what I do with Internship Girl and turn it into a vehicle that can tangibly provide both financial and educational resources to young women all over the world for free. [It’ll] help them achieve their dreams and enable opportunities not only for them, but for their entire communities.” I have a feeling she’ll do just that.

Wila Mae was a Style Intern at Her Campus for the Spring 2023 semester. She's a passionate storyteller and loves creating short-form video content highlighting secondhand shopping and Bay Area small businesses on her socials. Keep up with Wila Mae and her work @wilamae.navarro on Instagram and @wilamae2 on TikTok.