Knowing: An Internship Reflection

2018

Hello Fellow River-Lovers,

I'm popping in for one last blog post as Missouri River Relief's Education Assistant Intern. It's been a wild ride since I started in May, so I'm going to take this opportunity to reflect on my experiences.

I began this internship before my spring semester was even over. I stayed up all night finishing a paper so I could turn it in early and head to Kansas City for my first weekend on the job and my first river clean-up. Before I even had time to breathe, I hurriedly packed my bags, brewed one last cup of coffee, and hustled out the door for the 2018 Kansas City Teacher Workshop and River Clean-Up. 

Here’s what I knew in that moment:

  1. I knew that this was a cool opportunity. I mean… how many internships involve camping along the Missouri River with a full view of the Kansas City skyline?
  2. I knew that I was lucky to have this internship, especially because I’d never had one before, and I knew I had a lot to learn.
  3. I knew it might rain on Saturday.

Here’s what I didn’t know in that moment:

  1. I didn’t know how many river dogs I would meet throughout the summer.
  2. I didn’t know how long an 8-hour work day really is.
  3. I didn’t know I’d meet the most incredible kids at Missouri River Academy, or that I’d still be missing them when summer ended.
  4. I didn’t know how hard the staff at non-profit organizations work just to make ends meet.
  5. I didn’t know how refreshing River AC could be, or that sunsets are prettiest when watched river-side.
  6. I didn’t know about wing dikes or the Steamboat Arabia or the lifecycle of a pallid sturgeon.
  7. I didn’t know how intense my Chaco tan would get.
  8. I didn’t know how to post to Facebook Live (oh wait, I still don’t…).
  9. I didn’t know how much I enjoyed teaching kids about the natural world.
  10. I didn’t know I would fall head-over-heels in love with the Missouri River and Missouri River Relief.

That’s a list of things I didn’t know when I started this internship, but that I know now. The list of things I still don’t know is much longer (so long it’s kind of scary), but here’s the thing: this internship, and Missouri River Relief as a whole, has got me so excited to keep figuring out what I don’t know, to jump into new experiences, to never stop learning, to crank up the river AC and embrace my weird. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.

I wish words could convey the way my heart swells as I write this. I wish words could convey my gratitude to Kristen (the Education Director of Missouri River Relief) for taking me under her wing, for always teaching me, for being patient and wise and funny and someone I’ll look up to for the rest of my life. I wish words could convey how much I’ll miss this when it is gone.

Of course, words don’t get the job done (they never do!); so I resort to pictures, a firm believer in the power of visuals. These are some of my favorite shots I’ve taken throughout my internship. I hope they more adequately convey the emotions that my words can’t.

Kansas City Teacher Workshop and River Clean-up

This was one of the first photos I ever took for MRR. It’s crazy how the time has flown. I packed my bags for KC, I blinked, and then summer ended!
I was awestruck at my first river clean-up. The crew worked like clockwork in the way they gathered, tallied, and disposed of all the trash the volunteers had gathered earlier in the day. 

Sunset Excursion

This event was awesome because 1. We got to be out on the river as the sun was setting and 2. I got to mess around with my camera and take fun pictures like the whole time!
I loved watching Kristen do what she does best all summer: teaching! With every program, I learned countless things from her, and I’m so excited to see how she’s going to continue growing Missouri River Relief’s education programs.  
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: sunsets are best when watched river-side.

Missouri River Academy

I grew up going to summer camp, and my camp memories are some of the happiest in my life. I was overjoyed when I learned that I’d (technically) get to go to camp again this summer through Missouri River Academy!
One of the coolest parts of River Academy was watching the kids pursue their own passions. Seeing their faces light up and listening to them ask engaging questions about subjects they were interested in brought me so much joy. 
This was one of many scenic Academy views.
I’ve learned from Kristen’s presentations that our section of the Missouri River is unique and that other parts of it look completely different. That makes me grateful for views like these but it also makes me want to explore more of the Big Muddy.
The kids were told to explore a stream and find an animal to observe in their cup. This was the result and the kids were so captivated!
This photo was taken before the MDC treated us to an Asian Carp dissection and organ identification. Some kids loved it; some kids hated it. I, for one, couldn’t get enough!
Being able to see (and photograph) live Pallid Sturgeon was awesome for me, especially because we bring preserved Pallid Sturgeon in jars with us to every education program! 
For the past few weeks, I’ve been working on creating videos to introduce some STEM Challenge lessons Kristen has developed. The project put my journalism skills to the test and was so enjoyable for me. My favorite part of the assignment was going out to the river to gather b-roll footage. Even though my aim was to shoot video, I couldn’t resist capturing some photos too. I could’ve stayed out there with my camera all day.

The following two photos were not taken by me, but I am in them and they’re some of my favorites. I had to include them because I think they capture pivotal moments in my internship. 

These are only half of the kids who attended Missouri River Academy, but every kid who went has a special place in my heart. It was the best week!
This another shot from my first weekend with Missouri River Relief. In this moment I was giddy with anticipation for the rest of the summer and the rest of my time with MRR. Reflecting back, I can say that my internship more than exceeded my expectations.

This reflection has been all about knowing; what I knew, what I didn’t know, what I still don’t know. So along the lines of knowing, here are some things you, the next summer intern, should know before you start at River Relief:

  1. Test yourself to see how resourceful you can be – google is a valuable resource. Try and exhaust all options before you ask Kristen questions. Doing that will make you more confident, clear, specific, and concise if you do end up needing her help. You’ll find yourself googling silly things like “How do I edit my signature in outlook” or “How to send a professional email to another business” and it will all be worth it in the end.
  2. When helping people into boats: no matter how many times you tell people to get in from the side, they will still get in from the front. SO, position yourself strategically. You stand in front of the boat, close to the side from which people will get in. That way people will be forced to get in from the side. Put your hand out in front of you over the boat to help people in.
  3. As soon as you’re offered the job, start thinking about what you want to learn throughout the summer. I think the MRR staff asked me that question at least 5 times on my first day, and I wasn’t exactly sure what to tell them. They do such a great job of tailoring your internship to you so that you can get the most out of your experience. I told them I was a journalism major who wanted to spend her life communicating about the environment in some capacity, but I wasn’t sure what that would look like. They immediately gave me blog posts to write, photography assignments, they had me organize their working media lists, I pitched a story to a magazine, and they had me work on some graphics and design for them. It was all a blast, all such good stuff to put on my resume, and it was so unique to my desires and interests. I don’t think every job will put your needs/wants first like that, so take advantage while you can!
  4. If this is your first office job, figure out how you’re going to adjust to working in an office for forty hours each week. I definitely struggled with this in the beginning of my time with MRR, especially in the late afternoon hours and especially on Mondays and Fridays. Here’s what I did that helped: I did the hard stuff first – the stuff I was least excited about or that I knew would take the most brain power. I did stuff that involved movement or little brain power after lunch and right before the end of the day. I also kept a notebook near me to jot lists down as random thoughts popped into my head. Sometimes these thoughts were MRR related, sometimes they were not, but either way, getting them on paper and out of my head helped me be more productive in the long run.
  5. The rest of the staff is busy so they won’t follow up with you about everything. It’s your job to push your projects over the finish line, even if it seems like no one else is really involved or still pursuing them. It might seem like you’re annoying the staff, but in the end they’ll thank you for doing the stuff they’d never have time for. This will be the way you can have a lasting impact throughout your internship. If you don’t tie up your loose ends they’ll just be passed on to the next intern; try and avoid this.
  6. Enjoy every minute of it, even the hard stuff and the long days, because before you know it Kristen will be asking you to reflect on your experiences and all you’ll be wanting is one more week, one more day.

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