My Summer of Enlightenment

Posted January 14, 2019
Ropa Headshot

This past summer I had the wonderful opportunity to intern at Educational Testing Service. I will preface my spiel on my experience by a quote from one of my all-time favorite books, The Alchemist, "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it". I decided early on during my first year of graduate school that I wanted to do an internship over the summer. My undergraduate degree is in Computer Science and over the years I had done some great internships, but I was curious to see how my internship experience as well as the depth and breadth of what I would do would differ as a Cognitive Science graduate student. I told my very supportive advisor about my intentions and he set out to help me and I eventually landed at ETS in their Cognitive and Technology Sciences (CATS) Center. 

Being paired with a great mentor. I was paired with my mentor based on my research interests, skill set and the projects that were available. I was fortunate to work with Dr. Burcu Arslan because she is brilliant at what she does and was also a champion for my success on this internship. She had a positive attitude about the project which in turn further motivated me to focus on the task at hand, ask the right research questions, do the work, and finally have a product of the work I had done. I appreciated all the feedback I got along the way as it allowed me to revisit my thinking process, learn and grow.

Making friends and appreciating the graduate school journey. ETS' corporate headquarters is located on a beautiful campus in Princeton, NJ and I spent many days strolling and running after work appreciating its beauty. It so happened that a 5K was coming up and one of my colleagues rallied us up to register and train in preparation for the race which was a fun experience. Beyond all the fun memories we made and the sometimes-stimulating conversations, I had a deep appreciation for the graduate school process from seeing my intern colleagues at different stages of their journey to a PhD. I was also enlightened by the wide variety of things you can do with a graduate degree at an organization like ETS beyond academia. I appreciate all the people I managed to connect with, from whom I learned invaluable life lessons that are happily etched in my memory. 

I am emboldened to continue learning and growing. I am thankful for my village of supporters and mentors who always encourage me to pursue my dreams.

Ropa Denga