Teaching Assistant and LitLabs Fellow

Stevie Onanga headshot
Stevie Onanga
Emphasis Area
Business Administration

Stevie Onanga developed her time management skills balancing roles as a teaching assistant, mentor, and LitLabs Fellow producing her own personal film project.

How did you get your internship? 

During winter break I was doing research on Handshake and LinkedIn to find an internship. One day I received an email from one of the professors I had during the fall semester, and in the email, Dr. Jacqueline Barrios explained to me how she appreciated the student that I was while being in her class and how she had me in mind for an internship opportunity. The internship opportunity was related to a program that Dr. Barrios created called LitLab Fellows Programs. She explained that as an intern, I would be working alongside her as a teaching assistant during the spring semester of the PAH 200: Introduction to Applied Humanities course. After learning more about the opportunity, I accepted the offer. Thankfully, I already had a resume prepared, so I tailored it and sent it to my professor. We had an interview meeting, and then after that, I started my internship at the start of the semester.

Why did you choose this internship? 

One of the reasons I chose this internship was because of the skills I would develop while being an undergraduate teaching assistant. When I learned more about the tasks I would complete as an intern, I wrote down a list of the different transferable skills that would benefit me later in the professional world. The second reason I chose this internship was because I was actually looking for an internship not only to gain some experience but also to earn college credit, and this internship allowed me to earn both. The third reason is because through this internship, I would work with a professor I really liked and who I knew would be a great mentor.

What kind of work did you do throughout your internship experience? 

As a teaching assistant intern, my duties were divided into different areas. Since the class met in-person twice a week, my first duty was to attend in-class meetings at least once a week and attend any activity related to the class, like community field trips. A second duty was to keep updated records of student attendance and assist in grading student work. I also mentored students in class, especially during their team meetings as they were working on different projects related to the course. Thus, I was there to offer help and guidance as they worked on their projects and to be available if they reached out via email. Finally, a big part of my internship was working on a project of my choice with my supervisor’s guidance and delivering in-class presentations to students, enabling them to see my work in progress and take my work as an example of how they can work on their own projects. 

What new skills did you develop in this internship?

I had the opportunity to practice and develop organization and time management skills because I had to balance my internship duties and my school duties. I created a calendar with all the work and due dates I had, then checked my calendar every day to make sure I was efficiently achieving the results I wanted for each task I scheduled. That technique helped me improve balancing multiple responsibilities at once.

In addition, I practiced my communication skills through in-class presentations and through mentoring students, as I learned how to better convey a message to others in a way that they could easily understand. This skill was important for me to practice because my native language is French, so it was a great way to practice efficiently expressing myself in English. I also developed problem-solving skills while mentoring students through their projects, sharing suggestions, and answering any questions they had. Finally, creativity was a skill I practiced and developed during my experience as I worked on my own project and continually found ways to enhance it by incorporating new ideas and techniques. 

What was the most satisfying part of your internship? 

The most satisfying part of my internship was working on my own project and being able to complete and present it publicly. My personal project title was Passport: A film series for, by, and about international students, and it consisted of creating a platform for international students who recently arrived in the US to share their stories. I designed a website where they view videos of personal stories shared by other international students, specifically those from African backgrounds, who shared their experiences navigating a new culture. Creating this project was meaningful to me because, first, I am an international student, and I know what it is like to be in a situation where you have to learn how to adapt to a new environment and culture. So, working on this project enabled me to provide a platform for support for international students. I truly believe that every story matters, and we never know who it can positively impact. 

Link to project: https://passportint.online/

How has your internship experience influenced your plans for your future? 

Thanks to my internship experience, I am more open-minded to exploring opportunities that I know will impart valuable skills. I realized how you can gain a lot from an internship experience that is not directly related to what you want to do as a career in the long run because the skills you gain are transferable. For example, my goal for the future is not necessarily to become a teaching assistant or a professor, but being a teaching assistant intern helped me develop time management, problem-solving, and communication skills. Now, instead of solely looking for an internship that matches 100% with what I want to do, I will be open to the ones through which I will develop a strong skill set. 

What advice do you have for other students as they search for and begin their internship?

First, if you have not yet done so, I recommend taking the PAH 383 Pre-Internship: Building Career Readiness course. You will learn a lot of helpful tools designed for things like your internship search process and even the interview process when you find an internship. Also, even if an internship does not completely match what you wish to do in the professional world, look at what you will gain during that experience that will be valuable for your future career before discounting it. Finally, make the most of your experience by making yourself available to receive responsibilities and keeping an open mind when you receive criticism, as it is usually meant to help you.