Author: Katie Speer

“Nobody Knows Where They Might End Up…”

If you’re as much of a Grey’s Anatomy fan as I am, I’m sure you’ll recognize the title words of this post. Nobody knows where they might end up – I believe this can resonate with people of any age group, but particularly college students. College can be one of the most exciting, challenging, and stressful times in one’s life. The pressure to succeed and be on the “right” path can be overbearing. We may make mistakes and find our lives to be totally different from what we planned or expected.

Katie and her Chicken
Katie training her chicken for Little I

So sit down, take a few deep breaths, and listen to me when I say that everything is going to be okay. It is more than acceptable for your plans for your time in college to not turn out as you had anticipated.

Let me tell you a bit about myself. I have always wanted to be a veterinarian, and a variety of internships and volunteer experiences throughout high school to the present have solidified my desire to follow that career path. I began my freshman year at UConn as a dedicated student ready to take on any challenge – I was my high school class salutatorian, had a strong work ethic, and was totally sure nothing was going to get in the way of graduating early and attending veterinary school. As I continued through college, I started losing motivation and began more tangibly struggling with mental illness. Time flew by and before I knew it I was placed on academic probation in the Spring of 2015. I felt lost and devastated; I feared that I had completely jeopardized my future career and goals. Fast-forward to the present: I made the Dean’s List in the Fall 2015 semester, I retook some classes to improve my GPA, and I have postponed my veterinary school applications until the next cycle. As a senior graduating in December, these and other experiences along with the support of my advisors, professors, and friends have truly shown me that it is okay to be on a different path than your original intentions, as long as Continue reading

Gators and Tigers and Kids, Oh My!

Fred and I after the Crocodiles and Alligators presentation
Fred and I after the Crocodiles and Alligators presentation

If there were one word to describe the summer of 2015 for me, it would be “unexpected.” I never anticipated the degree to which my internship at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo would positively impact my life.

I had known of the zoo’s summer internships since the spring of 2014. However, I didn’t apply until this past winter with the help of a good friend and fellow applicant. We both applied for the Animal Care and Education internships. The Animal Care internship allows interns to indirectly work with the animals (categorized as Predator, Hoofstock, Farmyard, or Rainforest) through tasks such as diet preparation and feeding, enrichment, and some training. The Education internship entails caring for the education animals (reptiles, rodents, small mammals, and birds). It also includes activities such as conducting on-site presentations to school children and educational talks at the zoo.

Me practicing proper alligator restraint with Fred
Me practicing proper alligator restraint with Fred

Ultimately, I was selected for a more flexible Volunteer Office internship. Although this unexpected decision was disappointing at the time, it would turn out to be a blessing in disguise. This internship was only 2 days per week, which allowed me the extra time needed to succeed in my Physics summer classes. My main responsibility was to stand at various animal exhibits and present about the respective animal to the public, utilizing satchels that contained fact sheets about the animals and “bone clone” model skulls. Later in the summer I assisted with Zoo Patrol. In this one-week program, children ages 6-14 hear zoo keeper talks, receive behind the scenes tours and hands on learning, animal enrichment activities, and participate in games and crafts. I also was able to learn about Predator and Rainforest diet preparation through my friends in the Animal Care internship. Finally, I had the privilege of learning one method of alligator restraint with Rainforest Reptile Shows (Fred, the alligator I am pictured with, was part of a roadside “zoo” for many years and was only fed hot dogs, causing him to develop metabolic bone disease. With the care of Rainforest Reptile Shows, he is now healthy and well). Continue reading