How A Summer Internship In Cleveland Changed My Life

Summer on the Cuyahoga (SOTC), is a program that recruits and enlists talented college students for an intensive summer internship and positive experience in Northeast Ohio. Earlier this month, the program received a new Assistant Director.

Gail Davis grew up outside of Pittsburgh but came here for college. With a degree in economics and communications obtained from Case Western Reserve, she then relocated to Boston after graduating. Returning to Ohio, along with the new title, Gail has also gained positive recognition from her fellow colleague, and Executive Director, Jean Koehler.


“I am thrilled to welcome Gail, not only to SOTC but back to Northeast Ohio, more than 10 years after she participated as an intern,” says SOTC Executive Director Jean Koehler. “Our success is driven by the involvement of our engaged alumni, employers, and generous corporate partners, and we are excited that our next Assistant Director brings firsthand knowledge of the dividends the SOTC experience yields, even years after completing the program.”

Below, Gail tells all on interning in NEO as a young professional, what the city really has to offer, and what there is to love about SOTC.


SOTC’s 2005 Behind the Scenes Zoo Tour

When and why did you move to Northeast Ohio?

I moved back to NEO in January 2016, along with my husband Dave, our infant daughter, and two cats. Dave – who is originally from Greater Cleveland – and I met in 2002 during undergrad at CWRU and after graduation moved to Boston where we lived for ten years. We made the decision to move back to Cleveland this past fall. At the time, our daughter was a few months old, and I had just gone back to work. We felt increasingly squeezed by the high cost of daycare, our long commutes, and the rising cost of housing there. A seller’s market there meant if we wanted more space than our two bedroom condo offered, our mortgage would have skyrocketed and stretched us thin. Plus, we’d already considered moving back a few years ago. Cleveland has always been a really attractive place to live for us, because we knew we could enjoy so many of the same activities we had in Boston – great restaurants, breweries, outdoor activities, the beach, the list goes on – but also live a lot more sustainably and still able to afford to travel.

Tell us about your background and where you’re from.

Although my partner is originally from Cleveland, I am not. I grew up outside Pittsburgh – cue the “house divided” jokes – but came here for college. I studied economics and communications at CWRU and when we moved to Boston after graduation, I worked for a small, niche PR agency for a number of years before landing at Boston University managing communications for the school’s Global Programs.

alumni brunchSOTC Alumni Brunch

Tell us what makes NEO unique.

Although I spent all of my spring and fall academic semesters in Cleveland, it wasn’t until I was here for the summer that I really learned about all the region had to offer. During the break between junior and senior year, I participated in a program called Summer on the Cuyahoga. Through SOTC I worked at a paid internship and got to explore Cleveland in the summer for the first time. I learned, for example, that NEO has great beaches for swimming both on the east and west sides, great restaurants that are incredibly affordable, and also a really approachable civic community, bolstered by organizations like the City Club. Actually it wasn’t until I was working in Boston that I realized what a respected institution and great resource for Cleveland the City Club is, because I had clients from all over the world vying for the podium there.

One thing that surprises people about NEO is the weather. I can’t tell you how many times in New England people said things like, “Isn’t the weather really bad in Cleveland?” They were always surprised when I pointed out how similar snowfall totals are, and having survived Boston’s record (and back!) breaking 2015 winter, I can personally attest that the Northeast can be much more brutal!

Since coming back, we’ve been surprised to see how much the area has changed in ten years. The restaurant scene is even more robust now, and there are so many cool breweries and other places to explore. We loved Great Lakes back then – it was how we got introduced to craft beer in the first place – and we still do. But the explosive growth in brewing is really exciting. Our list of places to check out is long and growing. We live in Lakewood, so we’re most excited about Griffin Cider House on Madison and a rumor we heard that BottleHouse is opening a new location here specifically for brewing sour beers. As far as restaurants go, Deagan’s is our new standby. Another hit was El Carnicero. Lakewood is just plain awesome. Before coming back, we only  knew the east side and so moving to the west side has given us new places to explore and a fresh outlook.

Tell us about your experience with SOTC and why you loved it.

As mentioned, the first time I stayed in Cleveland for the summer was with SOTC. And it utterly, completely, and irreversibly changed my perception of the city. If you’re only staying here September through April – as many undergrads do – you’re missing out on an amazing time. We worked hard that summer at our internships but also got to enjoy more of Cleveland in two months than many NEO residents do in two years or more. And because of the great alumni network that supports SOTC, we weren’t just going to the zoo and visiting city hall — we were getting an exclusive, behind the scenes at the zoo and meeting city leadership!

And of course, free housing for the summer didn’t hurt either. 

What are some great resources for Summer interns in NEO?

I’m only familiar with SOTC, so I’ll speak to the resources of that program. I’d say the greatest one it offers is networking, as well as building a network in Northeast Ohio. First, all the interns build a network among one another as they live in a dorm and explore Northeast Ohio. They live like young professionals and, coming from different schools and working in various industries, they quickly become intimate with the diversity of opportunities in Northeast Ohio. Second, all interns have an alumni host from their school, so they develop a connection with that person, as well as all the alumni from our schools, so once again we see the diversity of opportunities and people who settle in Northeast Ohio. Finally, they have access to the employers who partner with SOTC, so it’s not uncommon for interns to repeat their participation in SOTC multiple summers and work for different employers as they try to figure out what they want to do after they graduate. All this networking creates a strong connection between interns and the people of Northeast Ohio which make it such a special community. Even though I’d been living elsewhere for the past 10 years, I still felt connected and was a huge advocate of the people who live here and its amenities.

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