Learning through internships local and abroad


Dahlia Townley-Bakewell

Dahlia Townley-Bakewell (12) photographs Jiufen Old Street, one of Taiwan’s most famous street markets. Shoppers can find traditional Taiwanese or modern clothes, Taiwanese snacks and authentic restaurants to eat at.

A summer engrossed in conducting research eight hours a day in a St. Jude lab lined with beakers and test tubes, a summer spent shadowing various medical departments in a Richmond hospital and a summer of escaping into the foreign streets of Taiwan: Dahlia Townley-Bakewell (12), Morgan Johnson (12) and Aditi Mishra (12) seized the absence of school to fully immerse themselves into these advantageous internships. 

Johnson participated in an eight-week pilot program with the St. Jude High School and College Research Immersion Program. Previously interested in chemistry, she was motivated to apply to this prestigious program and developed an insight of working in the medical field. Working from about nine to five everyday, Johnson, her partner and her mentor conducted research on structural biology in a lab.

“This gave me a lot of hands-on experience,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t like we just watched our mentor do [work] and then took notes; he showed us how to do [work], and then he left us alone. I was working with actual stuff that I’m going to have to know how to do in college, so it kind of gave me a head start.”

Each intern was assigned a specific protein to research: Johnson’s was anaplastic lymphoma. For eight weeks, Johnson worked towards making a final research project she would later present. Putting her all into deeply understanding the protein, she felt proud presenting her finished open presentation at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library.

“It was a really great moment for me because the project was on such a niche thing, and it’s on something you would not learn in high school, so I was basically learning it myself and studying it all summer,” Johnson said. “When I finally got to present it, and I felt like I understood it and was explaining it to other people, that felt really good. It felt like all my work had paid off.”

Also diving into the medical field, Mishra planned a summer stay with her dad in Richmond, Va to shadow at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center and the Children’s Hospital of Richmond with the Observership Program. Like Johnson’s, it was an eight-week program, but called for a more flexible schedule. Each week, interns had the option to choose which department of the hospital they shadowed, but were not required to come in everyday. Mishra devoted most of her time to the oncology and pediatric oncology departments.

“This whole experience sort of reassured me that, ‘Yes, this is what I want to do,’” Mishra said. “I took this experience as a sort of test to see whether I could live in this environment, whether my lifestyle and the life that I want for myself is something that I would want, and something that I would like doing.”

7,882 miles overseas, Townley-Bakewell embarked on a mission to Taiwan for the purpose of more thoroughly developing her skill in the Chinese language. Through the National Security Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program, Townley-Bakewell traveled to the town of Taipei in northern Taiwan with 18 rising high school seniors and college freshmen. She had language classes everyday, coming back to Memphis with an entire notebook of notes. They also had culture classes — where interns would reenact scenes from popular Taiwanese soap operas or painting Beijing opera masks.

“It wasn’t easy,” Townley-Bakewell said. “Class was hard, but it was a good challenge. Sometimes things were scary. Sometimes you go to a new country and everything feels different, and it feels very weird to be there and you just want to go home. But, you just kind of have to relax a little bit, and get used to being in a new place.”

Despite these programs having their unique differences and takeaways, there was one common ground between the three students: each got to explore and discover a passion they may chase for the rest of their lives.

“Find what you’re passionate at,” Johnson said. “Because … seeing things that didn’t even interest me, but seeing other people so passionate for it [further inspired me]. You will find your passion somewhere, so just work hard.” 





Dahlia Townley-Bakewell
Dahlia Townley-Bakewell