I run the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) program for international students for the Computer Science Department at Tufts. This program is necessary for international students to do a summer internship. As part of getting credit for CPT, I ask each student to write a report addressing: (1) what did student learn technically, (2) what did student learn professionally, (3) what did student wish supervisor(s) did differently, and (4) what would student have done differently. This summer, there were 18 students in CPT and the reports produced were awesome. Lots of fantastic stories, lessons learned. The stories illustrate what students are getting out of our curriculum and ultimately in the academic environment, what students are not getting out of our curriculum, and the importance of having professional experience to go along with the academics. Some gems to share (names and companies, institutions redacted):

“I also realized that I liked the freedom of open-ended problems a lot more than problems in class. My supervisor would explain the problem to me, would give me pointers as to where to start looking at and give me some of the initial ideas he had. But he left much of the engineering to me. I got used to just experimenting my ideas, which felt more motivating.”

“Although I could never had known this at the start of my internship, I do wish that I was used to reading research papers.”

“One of my first mistakes was to think that the supervisor expected me to know everything beforehand and that asking questions was something to be ashamed of.”

“As such, I was unprepared for the practical knowledge that went into and the scale of [redacted] infrastructure and tooling. On the first day, my team members rattled off no less than five different systems that they were maintaining”

“Secondly, I developed my communication skills and understood the importance of communication both at a work-related and non-work-related level.”

“Next, I learned that I should not expect my supervisor or manager to give me all the instructions I need”

“I also learned to not feel ashamed when asking the person who wrote the code you are working with how it works.”

“…the first thing to do in creating an application is to make it work first and then optimization should come later.”

“I would have taken some more breaks this summer. As this internship is wrapping up I’ve been completing some of the final touches to my projects but I can’t help but feel a little burned out.”

“First off how important it is to enjoy your workplace culture and the companionship of your colleagues. I am very fortunate to be able to work with people that bring a smile onto my face everyday and laughter into the workplace.”

“And by having someone professionally QA my work, made me realized the importance of the safety of the code, and never ever trust user’s input.”

“The only feedback that I have received was when I explicitly asked to meet and to discuss about how I’m doing.”

“The working process promotes the heavy use of the revision control software Git, with which each developer works on different feature branches for different projects before having their code meticulously reviewed by various members of the team for quality check and then sent to the Quality Assurance team for testing.”

“I also learned to ask relevant and timely questions so as to facilitate my initial learning process without delaying the work of my supervisor and coworkers.”

“On the job, no one but myself could be my teacher.”

“I wish my supervisor could use less jargons and more plain English when he answered my questions.”

“It is important to keep focus on your own project, but it is equally important to get known more about your colleagues’ projects. I think this could help me find more things I feel interested about.”

“I wish I could have gone over the [redacted] API documentation more thoroughly before I started working on the app”

“I also wish I could have asked more of my coworkers’ help”

“How to engage with and seek help from anyone who might know more about something than I do.”

“I wish I had a chance to discuss the results with my advisor or collaborators from medical poi_nt of view. I believe this step was necessary to validate the result of the project. Networking with more people in my research field is another item I can mention as an important aspect of the internship that I wish I had worked on more.”_

“I hope I could design the project clearly first, and make sure I understand every part, then start writing code.”

“Besides just writing code, I have also had regular meetings with both my supervisors and my clients from the Recruitment Department to showcase, discuss, and improve on existing features and create a better user’s experience. What I have realized through those meetings is that effective communication is essential to any successful project.”

“Moreover, I wish I could have asked for help more often than trying to solve some problem by myself for a long time, as I could have been problem-solving more efficiently.”

“Thus, I learned that I should be always ready to presenting my work to others.”

“Communicating your ideas is very important to work in a team.”