Randolph-Macon’s unique “January Term” is a time many students use to explore future career paths by taking advantage of the college’s Bassett Internship Program, studying abroad, or taking intensive courses on campus.
Senior Environmental Studies major Kyle “Kylie” Wash spent her J-Term in Baltimore at the National Aquarium. According to Environmental Studies professor Dr. Michael Fenster, Wash was the first R-MC student to be accepted into the competitive internship program at the Aquarium.
“I wanted to put myself out there and give it a shot,” said Wash. “I’m really proud of this accomplishment.”
Wash specializes in Education within the Environmental Studies major and hopes to enter the field of environmental education after graduating in May 2015. Wash interned in the Aquarium’s Education Department, an experience that she said has “solidified” her career goals.
While many students spent their January at a desk creating PowerPoint presentations, Wash experienced “something different every hour” at her internship, whether it was running programs for visitors to the Aquarium or leading education activities for visiting school groups.
“I especially loved working the Discovery Carts,” Wash said. “I loved sharing what I had learned about these incredible organisms with visitors and seeing their eyes light up as I talked.”
Prior to her internship, Wash struggled with the idea of reaching out to and communicating with strangers as part of her responsibilities. Before long, Wash was convincing guests of the Aquarium to touch Madagascar hissing cockroaches and other unusual creatures.
“You never knew what a guest was going to say to you; and while this initially scared me, I grew to crave those deeper questions,” Wash said. “I learned that it was okay to say ‘I don’t know’ to a question as long as it was followed by ‘let’s find out!’.”
The internship pushed Wash to grow in more ways than one.
“I’m so thankful that I was selected because not everyone is able to intern at such a well-known and highly revered organization,” she said. “I never thought I would be selected, but I’m glad I didn’t let that prevent me from reaching for the stars.” Dr. Michael Fenster played an influential role in Wash’s pursuance of her internship at the National Aquarium and has remained supportive by assisting her in attaining her current internship at the Science Museum of Virginia. Wash also attributes her success to tips learned at the EDGE Boot Camp that helped her “beef up” her resume.
“Kyle was consistently demonstrated outstanding leadership skills in our environmental problem-solving courses, and her internship was no different,” Dr. Fenster said. “She applied for this highly competitive internship on her own, and thanks to her outstanding performance on site, Kyle opened a door that will allow future R-MC students to follow in her footsteps.”
Wash said her experience at the National Aquarium was one that could not have been replicated in a classroom.
“A textbook can only take you so far,” Wash said. “Internships provide you with so much more than the classroom: you get hands-on, real life experience, and it’s a great resume builder.”
Wash said that her experience participating in internships through R-MC has helped her become confident in her post-graduation plans, a feeling that she said “everyone should have.”
“Randolph-Macon makes it so easy to find an internship in your field, so utilize those resources and get that real-world experience while you can,” Wash advises. “I’m so glad I did.”
-May McNeil ’16, Junior Features Editor