As the coordinator for freshman and sophomore initiatives at the Career Center, I constantly encourage underclassmen to take the leap into the world of internships and experiential learning, and to do so early. My rationale? The earlier you gain career experience, the more information you’ll have when faced with career decisions after graduation. But, don’t take my word for it. Sophomore Akshay Deverakonda, our guest blogger this week, did what few students have done before: he applied to the W&M in Washington D.C. semester program immediately following his freshman year. Through the program, Akshay interned at the Environmental Protection Agency while taking classes in D.C. I hope his story encourages you to take a leap of faith and try a new career experience this year!
Eager for Environmentalism – how an internship changed everything
One of the great aspects of a liberal arts education, especially the one we have here at William & Mary, is that you are exposed to a wide variety of viewpoints. For me, my time in the Sharpe Community Scholars Program during my freshman year helped me discover a passion for all things green. However, I was hesitant about switching my major to environmental science. Moreover, would I want to be in a research lab forever? Or could I actually be the one writing the policy based on the science?
My roommate told me that the upcoming fall theme for the William & Mary in Washington Program was “The Ethics of Sustainability”. It seemed like the perfect opportunity at the perfect time—a chance to explore my new found environmental interests by interning in the nation’s capital for a semester. It would push me outside of my comfort zone—who did a semester away/abroad right after their freshman year? However, I felt that this was a special chance, so I applied and was the only freshman that was accepted to the fall 2012 class.
And this huge leap that I took turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.
During the semester, I interned for the Environmental Protection Agency—my office helps communities manage growth from an interdisciplinary perspective, so I was able to examine sustainability from different viewpoints (environmental, economic, public health, etc.). I also made sure to talk to as many people as possible in my office, at the EPA, and in the federal government at large just to see how people with science backgrounds could do policy work, particularly in environmental areas. It was an amazing and truly humbling experience to hear people’s stories of how they got to where they currently were. My time in D.C. helped me see that my own calling was in science policy—there are not that many scientists who do policy work, and I realized that I wanted to be the one translating the science for the policymakers.
So be sure to keep an eye on the opportunities out there—an internship or a single class can change your life completely, as they did with mine. The staff at the Career Center can help immensely with pointing the way, but it’s up to you to try something new.
Want to learn more about how you can still get an internship or other career experience this summer? Make an appointment with a career adviser today!