By: Nick Santangelo

Philadelphia’s a big city with big opportunities. In fact, there are so many exciting opportunities, that it’s impossible for any College of Liberal Arts (CLA) student to learn about each of them on his or her own. That’s where Professional Development comes in.

During the spring semester, Professional Development took a group of students to the Philadelphia International Airport where they learned about the 50 paid internship opportunities that were available this summer. While many of the CLA students who attended that Experience PHL event now admit they never even considered the airport for internships beforehand, five landed summer internships there:

“I'm giving total credit to the experience,” says Gary Lawery. “I didn't know the airport even offered internships. Even if they did, I didn’t know what [interns] would do. If I'm thinking of an airport, I'm thinking of just like things going on in the terminal.”

He soon learned that there’s a lot more to running a major airport than just the most obvious operations. Lawery’s Government Relations internship saw him visiting City Hall to lobby for airport projects and working with a city councilman on developing legislation that would affect the airport. He was even able to give back to the community by working on a project that brought meals to homeless people.

He wasn’t the only one who was pleasantly surprised to learn through Experience PHL that the airport not only has internships but paid internships that aligned with a liberal arts student’s career goals.

“I would definitely credit the event because I had no idea the airport had a legal office inside of it,” says Anabelle Menla. “I didn't know the type of law that they dealt with here at the airport. I figured that it's an airport, people lose bags all the time, people are complaining. So, I figured that's the type of law that they deal with, but it's actually nothing like that.”

As part of the Legal Department, Menla worked on projects related to contracts and leases for airlines, retail tenants and even for some artwork loaned out from a museum to the airport. And while she gained a ton of experience working on those agreements, Menla says her biggest takeaway from the internship was the exposure to communications and meetings with seasoned attorneys and other legal professionals.

I would definitely credit the event because I had no idea the airport had a legal office inside of it

As CLA students, though, Menla and Lawery weren’t going into those experiences completely cold.

“I think the overall coursework helped, whether it be my Political Science courses or even the Intellectual Heritage courses,” explains Lawery. “Our Professional Development course that we have at CLA—the networking stuff that we learned there and being able to stand in those rooms and talk to strangers, enduring that first awkwardness and overcoming all of that means being in the room and not just around.”

Looking ahead, Lawery says he would love the opportunity to continue working in government affairs. He’s already completed two internships, but with an expected graduation in spring 2021, he’s still got time to try more before moving into his career.

As for Menla, she hopes to pursue either a law degree or her master of public policy. Once her education is completed, however, she would love to start a career doing work that’s similar to her internship experience. While she’s “maybe not too interested in planes,” she loved the influence the Legal Department had over clients.

“I think I'd like to do that for something that resonates with me, like social justice or civil rights because the country still has a lot of work to do to try and build the bridge between minorities and the other races,” says Menla. “So, I'd like to help ourselves those sort of things and that's what the airport position, this internship did just for me.”

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