Anahelena Arevalo, a PCA senior year Art History student spent her summer working at the Kandinsky Library in the renowned Georges Pompidou Centre. Find out about her experience and discover her top tips for students looking to land similar prestigious internships.
For those who don’t know, what is the Kandinsky Library?
Well, it’s a private library in the Centre Pompidou. It provides access to an extraordinary collection of books, research articles and catalogues including books from artists such as Picasso. It’s basically an enormous research centre.
What did you do during your internship?
I was involved in their summer university project. They invited academics from all over the world, specialised in the fields of art history, philosophy, sociology etc. The summer university’s chosen theme was counter culture.
What was the most challenging part of the internship?
I found the theme quite difficult to understand at first. I had to research what counter culture meant before starting the internship to make sure I was comfortable with the subject once I got there.
What was the highlight of your internship?
The highlight was definitely the independence that I had. I worked closely with another intern, who incidentally is now a good friend of mine. To begin with, we were not allowed into the archives by ourselves, however, one day our boss wasn’t able to make it into work, and having noticed that we were both responsible and committed, she allowed us to go down to the archives, which housed beautiful magazines from the 50’s and 60’s and look at them by ourselves. We literally were in a treasure trove. Knowing that she trusted us really increased my confidence. Our selection was then chosen for the summer university exhibition.
What do you think are the main differences between a student and professional environment?
I think as a student, you have a responsibility to yourself. It’s up to you whether you want to show up to class or not, whereas other people rely on you in a professional environment, which means you have a much bigger responsibility. At times it can be quite overwhelming! I was part of a project which wasn’t solely about me and my identity. It was a combined effort. I had to do a good job for the Kandinsky Library and not just for myself.
Could you give a few tips to students who are looking to land high profile internships?
People should not be discouraged if someone says no. When someone says no to you, you shouldn’t just get stuck there and quit, you need to try and find another opportunity. I was rejected from a couple of internships last year and so I chose to do a summer university at La Sorbonne to keep on studying. In my interview for the Kandinsky Library, they referenced the summer university because my bosses knew some of the professors that had taught me. Pursuing other opportunities definitely helped me land the Kandinsky Library internship. I’d been trying to get an internship for the past three years and it was only this year that it actually happened! The second thing is not to be intimidated. I look back at myself in January and remember how scared I was and how I wouldn’t sleep before starting the job. Now I realise that you have to be comfortable and confident in yourself in order to do a good job. You need to recognise that if you don’t know something, you can always ask for help, no one is expecting you to know everything. I know it sounds cheesy but I would say my tips are not to give up and to be confident.
How do you think this internship will help you in your future plans?
The fact that I did the internship in the Centre Pompidou, one of the top museums in the world and a name that everyone recognises will definitely help any future plans I have. I don’t think having this on my CV will be taken lightly.
I went into the internship thinking I was just going to pour coffee, but I actually did so many things, from database feeding and looking at primary sources in the archives to curating. I think I got a taste of a little bit of everything. It was great.
What would you say to students who are hesitant about applying for an internship?
I think it’s the best thing that you can do. It’s probably not going to be what you want to do for the rest of your life, but that’s okay. It will get you to where you want to be, so if you have the opportunity, just do it!
You can find out more about internship opportunities by visiting the career services section of our website.
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