From wading in ponds collecting insects to conducting erosion and watershed simulations, Julia de Jong’s internship at Au Sable Environmental Institute in Mancelona, Michigan has been a valuable experience. For four weeks in May 2017, she led natural history and science lessons outdoors for kindergarten to grade 12 students. Though the experience was unpaid, Au Sable picked up the tab for her travel expenses and living costs.
“My internship offered a hands-on learning opportunity to share my excitement for outdoor experiential education with others,” says de Jong ’18. More time spent in the woodlands and wetlands also gave her time to reflect. “I was able to take the time to enjoy my work and also further develop my relationship with God by seeing His face in nature.”
During her time spent outdoors engaged in environmental education she was privileged to watch her students light up with curiosity. “I had a second grade boy come up to me one day with a dragonfly nymph and damselfly nymph from the pond. He proudly told me that he could tell the difference between the two because of their ‘paddle-like tail’ or ‘hairy algae body,’” she recalls with a laugh.
Internships are a practical way for students like Julia to get the work experience that employers desire. At the same time, they are a safe space to see if what the student is studying sparks their passion. For Julia, it has already had an effect, allowing her to take on a summer position at the Hamilton, Ont. office of A Rocha Canada, a Christian environmental stewardship organization working in conservation, environmental education and sustainable agriculture. According to Julia, her internship directly prepared her for her position at A Rocha, where she assists in developing and leading environmental education curriculum for kids and families.
Now more than ever, employers prefer grads who bring real-world experience to the job. Redeemer offers internship opportunities in several of its programs. “The advantage of the internship experience is that it helps students to develop their professional identity,” says Sandy Ma, internship coordinator at Redeemer. “They can explore their career opportunities while also strengthening their marketability.”
Julia’s internship at Au Sable gave her experience, connected her to others working in the field, and allowed her to “test-drive” a career. Now, Julia encourages other students to think about finding an internship. “I would encourage other students to try a learning opportunity that lets them experience their studies,” she says. Julia knows she is where she wants to be — and she wants to share that.