Updated: Apr 12, 2019
My name is Liam Brennan-Burke, and I am currently a sophomore at Claremont McKenna College studying Economics and International Relations. I have always been someone who learns best outside of the classroom, through testing theories, debating concepts, and exploring solutions. From a young age, I have been interested in learning how things work and turning ideas into something tangible. At the age of 11, I started my own lawn business, 'Liam's Lawn Service," which I ran for seven years and eventually sold before starting college. When I arrived at CMC, I knew I wanted to invest my time and energy in clubs and communities that encouraged personal and professional growth. However, I was intimidated when most club applications required a resume and multiple rounds of interviews. I feared I would not get any opportunities because my classmates were smarter and more qualified than me. I also found it slightly confusing that students only one or two years older than me were the gatekeepers for these clubs. I was unsure what being involved would mean if the application process was so competitive. Despite my initial reservations, I absolutely love the small campus communities found within the 5C clubs. I have met some of my best friends and college mentors through club involvement. I have also found great value in participating in pitch competitions, getting meals with older students, and exploring ideas with classmates outside of the classroom.
Summers are also great opportunities to continue your learning outside of the classroom. In my freshman summer, I traveled to Kampala, Uganda to intern on the operations team with the ride-hailing technology company SafeBoda (similar to Uber). I got this internship from cold-emailing a SafeBoda employee asking if they hire interns. The next day, I got an email from the co-founder saying SafeBoda was always looking for people who can add value to the company. After a few rounds of interviews, I received an offer and joined the company in Kampala six months later. My time at SafeBoda was incredibly rewarding. Because the company didn’t have an official internship program, I was able to take on a lot more responsibility than I would’ve as a freshman at any other internship program. I also learned many valuable lessons about technology startups. Upon returning to CMC last fall, I was able to implement and continue to grow the knowledge and skills I had worked to develop over the summer. Honestly, my recommendation for freshman would be to dream big for your summer internship or experience - freshman summer is a great opportunity to explore the world and learn about something new. Put yourself out there and don’t be afraid to reach out to companies you think are doing something interesting... you never know what could happen!