This past semester, I participated in Semester in the City through the College for Social Innovation in Boston. This program is Colby approved, but I was one of the first Colby students to take part in it! The fellowship is designed to give undergrads a hands-on experience in which they can apply their classroom skills to a social impact internship while also taking two classes about social innovation and problem solving. Every fellow in the program is placed at a different non-profit, social mission business, or government agency throughout the Boston area for about 15 weeks. Placements are designed to align with individual interests such as environmental sustainability, criminal justice reform, public health, and much more. In addition to traditional intern work, each fellow proposes and fulfills their own unique “special project” designed to benefit their host site well into the future.
My internship placement was with Playworks, a non-profit organization that partners with schools across the country to strengthen social-emotional skills through play and aims to make recess a healthy and inclusive environment. As an education and psychology double major, this placement was perfect for me. I worked at a school in Dorchester, MA where I saw upwards of 600 students on a daily basis, and together we played games that emphasized skills like communication, empathy, and conflict resolution. Rather than teaching subjects such as math and English, I taught students valuable skills such as how to introduce themselves and how to cooperate on a team. These are skills they’ll carry with them far beyond the classroom.
When I wasn’t working with students, most of my time was dedicated to completing my special project. An important aspect of Playworks programming is Class Game Time: bi-weekly courses spent with individual classes where the Playworks Coach can focus on teaching specific games and cater lessons to classroom needs. Upon my arrival at Playworks, the Class Game Time curriculum lacked organization and structure. In order to make the existing materials more accessible, I reorganized the existing lesson plans within the Playworks database by corresponding social emotional skills and made sure each lesson plan could be applicable to many different classes. Additionally, I created some of my own lesson plans that will be accessible to future Playworks Coaches.
While I loved all of the work that I was doing in my internship, the semester came with its fair share of challenges. My daily commute took about an hour and a half one way, so I spent a fair share of my time on public transportation, listening to many podcasts and reading when I could find a seat on the T. I woke up at 6 am every day, and many days I left my apartment before the sun came up. This is definitely something that I had never experienced while at Colby, and it gave me a true taste of life in the real world. Additionally, I think we often underestimate how hard it can be to plan your schedule around work. When you’re working every day and taking classes, it can be hard to fit in time to grocery shop, cook, clean, exercise, and see your friends! Regardless of the challenges, getting a glimpse of “adulting” will ultimately benefit me in the long run.
Even though I grew up about 40 minutes outside the city of Boston, I had never before spent an extended period of time there, fully immersed in the everyday hustle and bustle of city living. The experience definitely pushed me outside the confines of my comfort zone, but I also believe that oftentimes that is where we learn the most as people. I would encourage anyone who is intrigued by my experience or is interested in pursuing a social impact career to check out Semester in the City, and feel free to reach out if you have any further questions about my experience!