In May 2014, I moved across the country to start an internship with the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
In April, I graduated with a bachelor of arts and sciences in sustainability, science and society from McGill University. Since I was originally from Calgary, I knew the Conservation Volunteers intern position in Alberta was the number one job I wanted from the moment I saw the posting. Now that the summer is winding down, I know I was right to want to work here.
Taking a step back, I should explain what drew me to doing an internship in the first place. As a recent university grad, I am competing with literally thousands of other students across the country for a job that will forward my career. I was lucky enough to work for Environment Canada in 2013 as a museum animator at the Montreal Biosphere — an environment museum. This opportunity gave me important insight about the value of a real-world working experience. But after graduation, I was looking for more experience and another chance to grow my skills. My hope is that developing skills that complement my education will make me unique, and a desirable employee. I figured a great way to do this is to get an internship.
Many of the advantages I have gleaned from this internship were what I was expecting. I got to dabble in a ton of exciting tasks. This included writing (such as blog posts), social media, event planning, people management, species identification and conservation stewardship. I also got the chance to try out many experiences without committing to them like one must with a full-time job. This internship allowed me
to work outside and inside, and to work in a small team as well as in a big group. I had the priceless opportunity to test out different working environments. In addition to offering me unique experiences (such as working in some of Canada’s most beautiful landscapes), this internship let me hone a few important skills. I can now design promotional materials, I feel comfortable approaching new people from all walks of life, plan logistically challenging events, and write pieces that do not sound like they’re about to be handed in for a grade.
The wonderful thing about doing an internship is that you can always predict one thing: you’ll get something you weren’t expecting out of it. The first great thing about my internship is that I got the opportunity to work with a mentor, not just a boss. My supervisor, Kailey Setter, the Conservation
Volunteers coordinator for the Alberta Region, has been an amazing resource and teacher. As both an experienced person and someone who is excellent at what she does, Kailey has taught me a lot about what it takes to be successful in this field. It’s thanks to Kailey that I have learned how to coordinate the sometimes overwhelming numerous details that go into events and how to graciously thank the donors, volunteers and staff who make everything we do possible.
The second unanticipated perk of my conservation internship this summer was what I learned about the importance of place. I knew I would get the opportunity to reconnect with the place I grew up, which is part of why I wanted this job after living in Quebec for four years. Despite being raised in Alberta I hadn’t seen much of the province. Working outside, and all over the area, gave me the opportunity to reconnect with home. Surprisingly, this gave me a whole new perspective and appreciation of the high variability and uniqueness of each part of the province. Learning about the connection to each area has made me appreciate my home more than ever. So, why do an internship? I did it to get a job and get an experience. What I got was a job, unforgettable experiences and a great time. What I also got was the chance to see myself doing something real. In the environment field, especially when learning about environmental problems in school, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the incredible number of issues facing us. Practical, hands-on experience with an organization gives you insight into what is being done about conservation and environmental issues. I have learned about the perks, such as being outdoors, and challenges, such as securing funding, of working in the conservation sector from a wonderful community of people. And, best of all, I learned a bit about where I fit into this community and where I want to be in the future. Thanks to this internship, I have a broader set of skills, a better idea of where I want to go in my career, and a clearer idea of what I need to do to get there.