My Summer Internship in D.C.

Alyssa attending a seminar on food policy at the Washington Post.
Alyssa attending a seminar on food policy at the Washington Post.

If you ever want to step out of your comfort zone, my suggestion is to go from working in a barn and an animal shelter for years, and then going to intern in the United States House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. for a summer. Last May, I left UConn and drove seven hours down to our nation’s capital to spend the next few months interning for Congressman Joe Courtney.

I heard about the opportunity to go to Washington during fall semester of my junior year. I wasn’t sure where I wanted my path to take me, but I had been considering a career in agriculture policy. When I learned that the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) awards stipends to students interested in interning in government each year, I jumped at the opportunity. I had to apply and interview, but eventually I learned that I was one of a few students nationwide to receive one of those awards. From there, ASAS helped me find an office to intern in. I was interested in working for Congressman Courtney because he represents my home district, which is full of small family farms. Agriculture is an important sector in Eastern Connecticut, so when I learned I was chosen to intern in his office I was ecstatic.

Alyssa with Congressman Courtney on her last day of the internship.
Alyssa with Congressman Courtney on her last day of the internship.

Interning in a big city was a culture shock. I lived in Maryland and had a 45 minute commute on the subway each morning and evening. I knew nobody, but quickly became friends with other interns who were in the same position as me. However, the biggest change for me was working in an office instead of outdoors, but I found myself really enjoying it. Each day, I spent a lot of time answering phones and speaking with constituents. They would often call in to express their support or opposition for issues that were currently being debated in Congress. Additionally, I helped the legislative staff do research for letters that would be sent out to constituents, as well as for upcoming legislation. Since the staff knew I was focusing on agriculture, many of the topics I researched for them involved animals and agriculture. My favorite part of the internship was being able to sit in on meetings and go to hearings regarding upcoming agriculture legislation and the upcoming Farm Bill.

This experience helped me narrow down what I might want to do in the future. Now, working in an office doesn’t seem like such a big stretch. I’m currently considering going to graduate school for food and agriculture policy. I found that I really enjoyed researching topics to educate constituents regarding current issues, and I’m now leaning towards a career in extension to help with community education concerning agriculture. While I may not find a career in government, I’m so glad I got the opportunity to intern with Congressman Courtney. I learned so much from the experience, and it’s something that I’ll never forget.

Junior Year as Told by a Premed Student

My reaction after watching a birth for the first time! I want to be a neonatal doctor, so getting to see a birth was very exciting.
My reaction after watching a birth for the first time! I want to be a neonatal doctor, so getting to see a birth was very exciting.

Junior year is notoriously very difficult, regardless of major or pre-professional program, there is a lot at stake. Students are tasked with gearing up for their last two years of college by planning classes, making sure to meet all requirements, and thinking about what their next step will be. Whether you plan on attending graduate school, entering the workforce, or taking time off, there is a lot to consider and it can be extremely overwhelming. I am an Allied Health Sciences major, beginning my junior year, and I plan on attending medical school following graduation. I do not plan on taking a gap year before going to medical school, so a lot is happening this year, and it’s happening very fast. I have spent a lot of time preparing for this year, and now I am working on how to manage classes, study for the MCAT, and find ways to improve my application to be the most competitive.

First, the MCAT. I plan on taking it in early 2018, and to do this, and do well, I have a lot of studying. It is important to think about your own study habits and how comfortable you are with the material when preparing for an exam of this magnitude. You must find what will work for you to be successful, because everyone learns and takes tests differently. Personally, I have found it helpful to enroll in an MCAT prep course through Kaplan. This course includes guided online sessions for three hours each week, study books, and personalized assignments that are geared to help you in areas you need improvement. This is just one of the many ways people go about preparing for the MCAT. Find what will work for you and make you successful. Additionally, make studying a priority along with all of your other classes!

A second thing that can be stressful about applying to medical school is the application itself. While this is many months away, it does not hurt to think about what you can do now to improve your application, makings yourself a more competitive applicant. What types of things are you involved in? Do you have any volunteer or clinical work in a hospital? These are a couple of questions you can ask yourself, and if you find that you are missing something, try to search for opportunities to fill the gap. For example, this past summer I traveled to Spain where I was able to shadow doctors in a hospital for a month. This was great exposure to the medical field, and I learned a lot about Continue reading

My First Professional Conference

Mindy on the Tampa conference center steps overlooking the water
Mindy on the Tampa conference center steps overlooking the water

I have always had a love for the environment and the water, so naturally, when choosing my major I picked one that incorporated all of my interests – Natural Resources. Coming into this field I really did not have a specific path I wanted take and was open to guidance. I joined clubs and started research to try and see which environmental aspects caught my interest. However, it wasn’t until my research lab sent out an email about the American Fisheries Society annual meeting that I found the perfect opportunity to explore my field. Whether it was attending multiple symposiums or networking with some of the most influential and intelligent fisheries managers, policy makers, and biologists the possibilities were endless.

The schedule of events for the annual meeting, along with the August 2017 fisheries magazine
The schedule of events for the annual meeting, along with the August 2017 fisheries magazine

Professional meetings are a perfect time to gain skills and knowledge that you would not be able to experience back at home. I spent most of my time attending some of the 74 symposiums, all of which had different foci. Some of these topics included fish health management, biochemical tropic markers, lionfish, large oil spills, and more! Since my university research and experience span from freshwater fish to saltwater fish and everything in between I made sure to go to a diverse array of seminars. I was very overwhelmed at first because there was so much to chose from, however, seminar after seminar I realized which field I was more interested in than others. My personal favorite being Swirling, Jumping, Burping and Farting: Pre-Spawning Aggregation Behaviors of Bonefish (Albula vulpes) by Andy J. Danylchuk. The intriguing title led many to his meeting room and his pre-spawning aggregation findings were incredible. I also attended a very valuable talk on the future of the nation’s fisheries and aquatic resources. During this seminar I received Continue reading

The Ambassador Blog is Back!

As all new students were moving into their residence halls last Friday, the Ambassadors were back on campus learning about CAHNR programs and honing their leadership skills. This year’s cohort of 21 students span 10 majors, four states, and a variety of academic backgrounds. There are Ambassadors who were transfer students, regional campus transfers, Honors students, and Ratcliffe Hicks graduates. Check out their profiles on the current Ambassador roster page.

The Ambassadors are also looking forward to sharing their experiences every Thursday on the blog. Check back weekly for new stories about study abroad, internships, research, clubs, and general advice. Get excited for a great semester!

  • Ambassadors with Dean Faustman
    Ambassadors with Dean Faustman

A Simple Hack to Improve Your College Experience: Get Involved!

Brite with her two Collegiate Health Service Corps site volunteers, Radha (middle) and Mehak (right).
Brite with her two Collegiate Health Service Corps site volunteers, Radha (middle) and Mehak (right).

College is the land of opportunity. Although everyone who attends has the same goal of walking away with a degree, academics are only a small portion of the experience. There are over 300 student-run extracurriculars you can choose from, including Undergraduate Philosophy Society, 3D Printing Club, and even UConn Kendo, a Japanese sport that uses bamboo swords to spar. It’s not difficult to discover new interests and find your own niche.

I began my college career trying out different activities. For me, getting involved with Community Outreach has been a very life-changing experience. It is a student-run volunteer organization that coordinates various programs to work with local underserved populations. Some are one-time or weekend service events, while others are semester-long programs that fall under one of the three categories: youth development and education, health, and language learning and literacy. I am currently a site leader for Collegiate Health Service Corps (CHSC) and Windham Hospital Volunteer Program. Out of the two, CHSC has impacted me the most. Every semester, teams of three are assigned to specific local populations to teach health topics to, where each team has the freedom to design their own lesson plans and incorporate interactive activities. Continue reading

Tips to a Fulfilling Summer

Mindy reading a book while overlooking the quad.
Mindy reading a book while overlooking the quad.

With summer rapidly approaching everyone cannot wait for the school year to end and the relaxing to begin. However, having a fulfilling summer is key when looking back on it once the school year restarts. There is no greater sense of accomplishment when you are cooped up in your dorm room, then to know there isn’t anything else you wish you had done this past summer.

Here are some tips for how to have a fulfilling summer:

 

Read a good book: Being in college a lot of the books we read are in the form of a textbook or based on something we are not interested in at all. A book that you actually enjoy can help stimulate imagination and create focus and concentration. Often time in the summer people are either constantly doing activities or not doing anything at all. It is important to keep your brain working, so why not do it with a book you like. Books related to your passion or field of study can also help you recreate or improve yourself in various aspects. For example, you could be inspired to do one act of kindness a day or discover a new interest of yours within your field of study. Continue reading

Floods and Massive Landslides in Peru

Recent landslide in Peru
Recent landslide in Peru (“Flooding in Peru.” AvaxNews. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.)

During the month of March, prolonged rainfall has caused severe river flooding, landslides and mud flows across Peru. Around 150,000 homes, including a lot of people’s businesses have been flooded. Approximately 1,250 schools and 340 health centers have suffered some type of damage. 24 of Peru’s 25 regions have reported damage, the most affected regions are: Lima, Piura, Lambayeque, Ica, Arequipa, Huancavelica, Ancash and Loreto.

As of March 25th, 2017, there have been reported the death of 90 people, about 40 people are injured and more than 15 people missing, cause of this climate phenomenon named “El Niño Costero.” As of right now more than 120.000 people have either lost their family, businesses or friends, the number keeps increasing due to the continuous floods and landslides which is making people move to other parts of Peru.

Aside from people losing their homes, massive landslides and floods are causing the loss of water.

Police trying to move people to a safer place
Police trying to move people to a safer place (“Flooding in Peru.” AvaxNews. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.)

Many Peruvians do not have access to water, some have to buy water from other people and the prices are very high. Unfortunately, many people do not have the money and resources to buy water. The loss of water is not only happening in the poorest regions of Peru, many of the districts of the capital have reported that they do not have access to water, some temporarily and others for a very long period of time.

Currently, Peru has been declared in state of emergency and the situation over there is not getting any better. Many companies have been helping people find shelters and places where they can stay and be helped but the number of affected people keeps increasing. There have been a few fundraisers here in the U.S. and even at UConn to help the victims of this chaotic situation.  Recently, Continue reading

Tips for Picking the Perfect College Pet!

Danny in front of fishThere’s no argument that the number one thing all college kids absolutely love is animals. There’s nothing like flock of students who sprint to pet a newly discovered dog on campus. Often students think about getting a pet of their own for companionship and stress relief. In some cases, these decisions turn into great human-pet relationships while in others a complete disaster. Having cared for and owned practically every available pet in the book here’s some advice on getting a new companion during your college career.

Firstly, you should note that the on-campus housing limits you to nothing besides a fish tank less than 30 gallons total per room (10 gallons per person). Off campus housing is much more ideal for keeping pets.  Be sure to check with your landlord for their pet policies and if there are extra required costs before getting a new companion.

Fish: A+ College Rating

My 10 Gallon "UConn" Fish Tank.
My 10 Gallon “UConn” Fish Tank.

I always like to start with fish because they’re one of my favorites groups of animals and often underrated. Not only are there a wide variety of species, colors, and temperaments but many are relatively easy to care for. One of the greatest things about fish is that they are always inside an aquarium. Unlike other animals, like snakes, fish generally stay inside the tank and you won’t have to worry about one frolicking through your dorm or apartment building if they get out!

Fish are an ideal choice of pet in college and a great stress reliever. Watching fish tanks has been proven to lower stress levels and relax people with anxiety. Entire fish tanks can be set up for under $100 and require low maintenance. Small 10 gallon kits are available at local pet stores and are great for easy to keep bettas, tetras, guppies, and other small freshwater community fish. If you are more interested in Continue reading

Travel Tips for College Students

Performing an annual exam on a jaguar with the veterinary medical team from my Honduras spring break trip.
Performing an annual exam on a jaguar with the veterinary medical team from my Honduras spring break trip.

Many college students are advised to travel at some point during their undergraduate career. Whether it be a study abroad program, a community service trip, or a vacation with close friends, I believe that traveling in any capacity can broaden your perspective and teach you things that you may not get the chance to experience during your time at school. At an age when many of us don’t have our lives quite figured out yet, the experiences I’ve had traveling have provided me opportunities to gain confidence and independence, learn self-reflection, and ultimately be more aware of what is going on in the world around me. Unfortunately, travel is sometimes difficult for students due to limited budgets, busy schedules, or other circumstances, but it is definitely still possible! Here are some tips and advice about traveling as a student that I’ve picked up in my travels thus far:

 

  1. Take advantage of study abroad programs and educational opportunities abroad.

I urge any student to look into what their school’s study abroad programs have to offer. These trips are designed for students and are many times more cost effective or easier to schedule while you’re going to school. If a whole semester is difficult to commit to for scheduling or money reasons, consider programs that run during school breaks. Last May I went on a 3 week study abroad trip to South Africa and it was cheaper than going for a semester as well as allowing me to work around the classes that I’m required to take. In addition to college-run programs, there are plenty of Continue reading

Starting College in a Living Learning Community

To some, the first few days of college are overwhelming and lonely because they struggle to find common ground with the people around them. However, if you’re lucky enough to come into UConn in a Living Learning Community (LLC) such as the Women in Math, Science, and Engineering (WiMSE) learning community, then that adjustment is really already made for you. Living Learning Communities are groups of students that live together based on a common application into that program. For example, there’s WiMSE, Business Connections, Engineering, Innovations, Scholars, EcoHouse, and many more.

WiMSE is a group of women in STEM disciplines. I have lived in the community for two years in various residence halls.  First WiMSE was located in the Watson building of the Alumni residence area, and it has since moved to the NextGeneration Connecticut residence hall.  The group of girls has changed from year to year, but I am still particularly close with the now sophomores of WiMSE. The best part of WiMSE is the mutual understanding between everyone. We all are familiar with the very challenging classes that accompany a STEM major, and find fellowship in the stress of attempting to be accepted into graduate school. WiMSE has given me my best friend, a wonderful position in undergraduate research, many personal and professional connections, as well as Continue reading