Highlighting her experiences as an intern, Celia Hensey offers some great advice on the best practices of being an intern. Celia is a student at Washington University in St. Louis and did an internship at Dunes Monitoring Program, Bellows Air Force Station. Celia shared her story in this interview conducted by Jane Horowitz, More Than A Resumé.
Did you have specific career plans when you started college?
Yes, I’m a planner. I went to Washington University in St. Louis and was certain I would be a molecular biology major and afterwards attend graduate school. Then I took my first class. I knew right then it wasn’t a good fit for me. I started to explore other opportunities and learned about the school’s Pathfinder Program in Environmental Sustainability. The program is a way for me to take an interdisciplinary course work approach to my studies and exposes me to both case studies and fieldwork, which were new to me when I started school. I credit the Pathfinders Program for helping me discover my passion for environmental biology and fieldwork.
Tell me how you got your internship at Bellows Air Force Station on Oahu.
As an associate in the Pathfinders program, I have access to a network of professors and upper classmates who helped me understand career opportunities in my field of study. I also participate in a career services center program that organizes work groups to discuss careers. The facilitator of the group I’m involved with was leaving to take a job in Hawaii. We had a meeting to discuss her new job and discovered a shared passion for environmental work. As a result of our conversation, she connected me to the manager of the Dune Monitoring Study program at Bellows who was looking for two Washington University summer interns.
Unfortunately, the program was unfunded and the internship was unpaid. However, I applied and received approval for research funding through Washington University and am now writing a research paper that will outline the dune monitoring study procedure and plan to monitor sand build up that we designed.
What were some of the experiences that prepared you for this internship?
One aspect of the internship was to replant the dunes with native plants, which we could never do with such a small team. During my previous internship with a non-profit conservation group, I gained experience planning a community outreach program. I like seeing a project from its start to the finish and used what I had learned to take the lead on creating a community event. I planned and marketed the event and met with neighborhood associations and nursery owners. On the day of the event, we planted 3,000 sq. ft. in just three hours with the help of volunteers.
What steps did you take to make sure you developed and learned skills from your internship?
My plan is to have a career in environmental conservation. I’m very interested in community engagement and by taking ownership of the event, I learned more about how to reach out to communities. Also, living in the Midwest I don’t have many opportunities to work on coastal ecology projects. I was able to study native plants and learn from nursery owners from my experience and I plan on going back to work in Hawaii.
What actions have you taken to turn your internship into a full-time position?
There isn’t an opportunity to work at Bellows after graduation because it’s an unfunded program. It’s really the passion and work of the program manager and the interns and volunteers. However, through the internship I’ve built a professional network in Hawaii.
What advice do you have for college students who are interning this summer?
I think the most important thing you can do is identifying what exactly it is you want out of your internship and the specific skills you want to learn. I talked with the program manager about my priorities and together we created opportunities for me to accomplish my goals.
One of the benefits of an internship is learning from other people in the field and finding a mentor. Cultivate relationships with the people you have similar interests with to learn how they got started in their careers, what they think the pros and cons are and to grow your network.
Do you have internship advice to share with your peers? Please submit your request for an interview at firstname.lastname@example.org . Please include your college, major and graduation year.