How To Pursue Your First Internship


by Melody Youwakim, Chemical Engineering '24


My name is Melody Youwakim, and I’m a sophomore at Lamar University majoring in Chemical Engineering with declared minors in Chemistry and Mathematics. Most of the time when I tell people I worked an internship after my first year of college, their response is “How? You were a freshman with no engineering classes or organic chemistry knowledge!” In this post, I’ll answer your burning questions of finessing an internship.

First, I’d like to state that there’s no age requirement to work an internship. You’re never too young or too old, and you should never let your progress in your degree stop you from pursuing an intern or co-op opportunity. Even if you think you may not get a job offer, it’s always worth a try. I myself believed that I was too young to be hired for an internship, but I went for it anyway. What did I have to lose? Now, I’m a firm believer that getting hands-on experience early in your career and degree plan makes it easier to understand theoretical concepts in your classes because you’ve already seen those concepts applied out in the industry.

One thing that I believe made me more appealing to recruiters was the number of credits I had. I took as many dual credit classes in high school as I could, and came into university with 27 credit hours. This made my classification “sophomore” after my first semester of university, which qualified me to attend the spring career fair hosted by the College of Engineering.

The second thing that I believe impressed recruiters was my research project. Not to pat myself on the back, but I’m a go-getter, and I’m always searching for new opportunities to get ahead of the game and better myself. In an attempt to advance my career, I reached out to a student who I knew was in research (who also happens to be a fellow College of Engineering ambassador!) and asked how to get involved. From there, I was connected to Dr. Clayton Jeffryes. I was able to join his algal research project and gain experience in waste evaluation in the second semester of my freshman year. Being able to talk about my part in the project at the career fair to recruiters put me ahead of the other students of my classification because I already had practical experience, even if it was just as a lab assistant.

Prior to the career fair, I asked my older peers how to prepare. I was taught how to make an elevator pitch, clean up my resume, and answer typical questions asked by recruiters. I would suggest this to any younger student seeking guidance: help is always available at LU COE, you just have to know here to find it. I am a part of American Institute of Chemical Engineers where I often ask older students for guidance picking out classes, which professors to do research with, and their suggestions for difficulties in classes. If you need help preparing for the career fair, LU COE has many resources available, and you can ask any of the Ambassadors for help or contact the dean’s office, and they can point you in the right direction.

At the career fair, I spoke to recruiters both online and in-person in an effort to make a personal connection and get my foot in the door. I was able to make a personal connection with an engineer who recommended I apply to the summer internship program, and they really went to bat for me in getting me an interview. I found a company with plants in the Houston area who were willing to take a chance on a younger student who was eager for experience.

My biggest tips for younger students are to prepare, know how to talk about your experiences in a way that relates to the position you’re applying for, and always seek out new opportunities for practical experience. If you’re eager to learn, someone will be eager to teach you.