Talk to the employees where you work. Find out what they did to get where they are and where they are going.
Name: Sarah Draude
Program of study: Biology, chemistry minor
Internship: National Aquarium
Location: Baltimore, MD
Briefly describe your internship and your responsibilities as an intern.
I worked in the visitor programs department at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. I staffed discovery carts around the aquarium where visitors could look at different animal artifacts and learn more about different topics (sharks, fish, Australia, dolphins, etc.). It was my responsibility to educate a diverse range of visitors about these subjects. I presented the “Stingray Shuffle,” a short presentation in which visitors can learn more about stingrays. I also worked with the Immersion Tour program and developed an activity that is being used at their themed sleepovers.
How did you find your internship?
I mostly did researching on my own looking for internships available at organizations and institutions that I was interested in. I also talked to my adviser and received some help from the Career Development Office (CDO).
What resources did you find particularly helpful in your internship search?
The CDO was helpful in the process of writing my cover letters and résumé. They also helped me apply for credit and Summer Internship Awards.
Why did you choose your internship? What factored into your search and applying?
When I was offered this internship I was still holding out for some other positions. In the end, I choose this one because I had the opportunity to stay at Goucher for the summer and be close to home. The National Aquarium is also an incredible institution and one of my favorite places to spend time.
What were you most apprehensive about going into your internship?
I was worried about the extent of my previous knowledge in the field. My worries subsided when I realized that even the most experienced staff and volunteers don’t know everything there is to know about all the animals and exhibits. I was also nervous about working somewhere with such a great reputation and in a professional environment. I’ve only had a few jobs, and I grew very comfortable at them, so I was a little nervous about working somewhere new.
What did you hope to gain from your internship experience?
I wanted to improve my skills as an educator. I didn’t realize that I was interested in education until my junior year when I applied for the internship. I wanted to be able to gain more experience in informal education and discover if this was a field I wanted to pursue further.
How did your internship experience influence your academic and career interests/goals/plans?
I still don’t know exactly where my career will lead me, but my time as an educator at the aquarium has made me realize that I want to work in education. I am now taking an education course at Goucher to get some formal education training under my belt. The aquarium is also a place I would like to work in the future, and I know that I now have many valuable contacts that can help me to do so.
What were the most challenging aspects of your internship?
There was so many different species to identify and know about that it was often intimidating. Frequently, I would be asked a question that I didn’t know the answer to, which was very frustrating. No matter how many times I wrote down a question and found out the answer afterwards, the next day I would be asked another question I didn’t know. I eventually felt better when I realized that nobody there knows everything there is to know.
What were most rewarding aspects of your internship?
I was told at my orientation that I would have to give a presentation with a microphone. I had never done this before, and I’ve never been comfortable with giving presentations. I also get nervous. There was only three weeks left of my internship when I realized that I had never learned the presentation. I decided that even though I was really nervous, it would be a good idea for me to take this opportunity. I learned the presentation and tag-team presented it a few times, and then did it on my own. I felt very accomplished after I finished the first time, even though I knew I had a lot to improve upon.
Any funny/embarrassing things happen during your internship?
One afternoon I went with the program Aquarium on Wheels to some Baltimore City public libraries. In this program, high school students from the Baltimore City high schools write plays that they present to the children at the libraries. I was told that I had the opportunity to go with them and see what they do and be an extra hand. They were short on students that day, so I ended up playing the role of the duck. I wore a large duck costume and had to learn my lines in about five minutes. The play ended up being very funny, and the kids in the audience seemed to really enjoy it.
How do you feel your internship prepared you for the real world?
I gained a lot of confidence in my skills during this internship. At first I felt that I wasn’t doing a very good job, but as the summer progressed, I felt more comfortable. Reassurance from my supervisor also assured me that I just needed to be more confident. I also have made new connections that I hope might help me get a job when I enter the “real world” next year.
What advice would you give to students to help them make the most of their internship experience?
Talk to the employees where you work. Find out what they did to get where they are and where they are going. I made various connections and discovered more about what I would like to do by asking questions and talking to people.