Internships/Career Advice

The Story of Buttercup

Buttercup and Alyssa at the Dairy Show
Buttercup and Alyssa at the Dairy Show

I spent a lot of time in high school and the beginning of college worrying that I would never find anything that I was passionate about. Everyone made such a big deal about it—counselors and teachers were always encouraging us to pick a major or career that we love. When I was applying to college I intended to be a nursing major, but once I got in I promptly changed my major to chemistry and then again to biology. Nothing felt right. I was getting closer—I knew I liked the healthcare industry but I wasn’t quite there yet. Finally—I don’t remember how I came to this realization—but I figured out that I wanted to work with animals and not people. I came to UConn officially as an animal science major, with the intention to go to veterinary school. Still, this just didn’t feel exactly right, but I was getting closer, so I stuck with it.

During the spring of my freshman year, I received an e-mail about participating in a dairy show, no experience necessary. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I went to the meeting anyway.  I knew I needed some experience with large animals if I wanted to be competitive for vet school. I learned that I would pick a dairy heifer, train her to walk and set up, groom her, and finally show her in front of a judge in a few months. They had a list of names of the animals we could choose, and I picked a random one: Buttercup.

I started working with Buttercup a few times a week, and every time I went down to the barn it was the highlight of my day. The first few practices, I got her used to wearing a halter and being handled. This involved a lot of petting her and brushing her. Once she got used to me, this also involved a lot of her using me as a scratching post. Eventually, we got to the point where I could walk her a few steps here and there on a lead, and finally we could even walk outside. As the show got closer, I got to give her a bath and clip her fur so she would look just right. As I was working with her, it amazed me how gentle and kind these animals could be, and how much of a personality each specific one had. I was slowly falling in love with dairy cows, and I’m not sure that I even knew it was happening.

On the day of the show, everything went fairly smoothly, and Buttercup and I placed third out of six in the intermediate class—most of the people had shown once or twice previously. I was so proud of us, but putting her back in her pen after the show made me sadder than I thought it would. I realized I would no longer be spending my days down at the barn working with her. Afterwards, I visited the heifers every so often, but that wasn’t enough. Eventually, I was lucky enough to get a job working at the Kellogg Dairy Center, milking the cows that we have on campus. I love working with them. One of the best parts of the job is working with calves. I knew someday soon Buttercup would be moved up from the heifer barn to the milking barn; I checked every time I worked to see if she was there yet.

Betsy on the night she was born
Betsy on the night she was born

Finally, the day came when I walked into work and checked the pregnant cows to see if anyone had calved before we got there, and I saw Buttercup in a stall with a tiny brown calf who must have just been born minutes before we walked in. I was so excited to be the one working when she calved, and I even got to name her baby: Betsy. This night is when something just clicked; I knew that I wanted to work in the dairy industry. I had finally found the thing I was passionate about that had always seemed impossible.

Unfortunately, Buttercup got sick shortly after she calved and a few weeks later, I found out that she was definitely not going to get better. I was devastated, but it was nobody’s fault, and I had to accept it and look for a silver lining. I found this in Betsy, who I’m very excited to show in this spring’s dairy show.

You don’t have to know what your passion is right away. It took me 18 years to find mine, and it came from an unexpected place. When I signed up to participate in the dairy show, I thought I’d just train a cow, write it on my resume, and move on with my life. I never thought that I’d fall in love with an animal and change my entire life plan, but that’s what happens when everything falls into place. I mention Buttercup on every application I submit and in every interview I have when I’m applying for jobs and internships, and it’s worked: this summer I will be interning in Washington DC, advocating for agriculture policy that supports dairy farmers. If you’re still trying to find your passion, I’ll leave you with this final advice: Go out of your comfort zone, don’t be afraid to say “yes”, and be open-minded. You’d be surprised at what might make everything make sense.

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn”

Hanging out with Prince before lessons!
Hanging out with Prince before lessons!

Last semester I had the opportunity to intern at the Camp Care Inc. Therapeutic Riding Program in Columbia, CT. Since I am minoring in Therapeutic Horsemanship Education, I was required to learn the basics of running a therapeutic riding program and being a therapeutic riding instructor. Throughout my internship, I had the opportunity to work with many different riders and instructors. Besides learning about why we do certain stretches with our riders, how to work with riders who may decide they don’t want to ride anymore mid-lesson, and safety practices for if things go awry, the Camp Care program gave me much more than I ever anticipated.

On my first day I met Kirsten, one of the riding instructors and my new mentor. She welcomed me with open arms and made me feel as though I’d been there for years. She quickly “taught me the ropes” and I jumped in with two feet. The barn work was easy to get used to, especially coming from a horsey background. I knew the basics of feeding, cleaning up, and exercising horses. What was completely new to me was working directly with the riders. Although I was a camp counselor for a few years at my local horseback riding camp, I had never had the opportunity to work with children with special needs.

Appa and Spirit giving each other scratches before being lunged.
Appa and Spirit giving each other scratches before being lunged.

For my first lesson, I got to work with Jake, a spunky teenager who suffered a traumatic brain injury. I quickly learned when the lesson started that Jake is an extremely determined and strong rider, despite his limited use of his body. Watching Jake steer his horse Mandy around obstacles, through poles, and over bridges simply amazed me. What was even better was that he laughed and smiled throughout the ENTIRE lesson. Naturally, I couldn’t help but laugh along with him. By the end my internship, we had switched Jake around to three different horses, tried out new obstacles, and had him ride without using his hands to practice his balance. He attacked each challenge with enthusiasm and would put 110% into everything that we asked of him.

Dressing up for Halloween with Galli.
Dressing up for Halloween with Galli.

Now I don’t think he realized it, but as I was teaching Jake, he was teaching me too. No matter the challenge, he pushed through and didn’t let his disabilities stand in his way. This made me step back and look at my own life in a new perspective. When I was feeling down and had a seemingly never-ending list of things to do, I would think of Jake and his determination. This immediately helped me to change my attitude and look at my to-do list as a challenge rather than a burden. I changed my mentality from “I can’t do this” to “I can and will get everything done”.

Jake also taught me to celebrate my achievements, no matter how small, to push myself and my limits in order to be better, that laughter is the best medicine, and that when you make a mistake, fix it, and move past it. Every Wednesday I would get to start my afternoon off with a smile and end my first lesson with a big high five. Jake will always hold a special place in my heart and I am grateful that he was not only one of my students, but one of my teachers as well.

10 Ways to Have a Successful Second Semester

  1. Mindy and her fellow College Ambassador helping out at a food waste seminar on campus.
    Mindy and her fellow College Ambassador helping out at a food waste seminar on campus.

    Let go of last semester – First semester is over, let go off all the stress and bad experiences you’ve had. The best thing about second semester is that it gives you a clean slate and new opportunities. Take advantage of all that UConn has to offer.

  2. Get Involved – A new semester means another involvement fair, another Greek week, and more possibilities. If you aren’t a part of any clubs or organizations step out of your comfort zone and sign up for some. Even if you only go to one meeting you are at least trying out new things. If you are already part of some clubs/organizations, join another if you have time! It never hurts to make friends and be involved in the UConn community. You can also try going to body wise classes that UConn Recreation offers. They are organized fitness classes ranging from yoga to HIIT. Getting involved and trying new things helps you submerse yourself in all UConn has to offer. It will make you feel more comfortable and a part of the community.
  3. Eat breakfast – Eating right gives you the energy to make it through the day. I always eat a balanced breakfast with eggs, toast, and some form of fruit. Last year I always skipped breakfast and found myself getting tired and taking a lot of naps. Now that I make time for not only breakfast, but also lunch and dinner, I feel like I have so much more energy.
  4. Fix your sleep schedule – Along with getting up early enough for class and having enough time to eat breakfast, you want to make sure that you’re getting a good amount of sleep each night. After winter break your sleep schedule is probably all messed up. People sleep until noon maybe even 2pm during break and stay up late or go to bed too early because they’re bored. Being back at school you need the break the habits you just made and fix your sleep schedule. Getting 6 to 8 hours a night gives your body enough of a break to relax and get ready for the next day.
  5. Breakfast at McMahon dining hall.
    Breakfast at McMahon dining hall.

    Plan ahead – After syllabus week you should gather all the important dates from each class and transfer them into your agenda pad/planner. Having exams and quizzes written down will help you plan for studying and plan for weeks that are “free” enough so you can travel that weekend without having a load of homework. Planning ahead is also beneficial not just with course work, but also courses in general. Planning out your semesters in advance will help ease the course picking chaos and allow you to put courses together like a puzzle in terms of labs, discussions, and hard/easy classes. It is good to have a mixture to not overwhelm or underwhelm yourself.

  6. Apply to internships – I don’t know about you but I procrastinate so much during winter break, I don’t want to do anything. However, when I go back to school I need to make sure I’m productive by applying to
    Mindy and her sorority, Sigma Alpha, at the homecoming parade in Fall 2015.
    Mindy and her sorority, Sigma Alpha, at the homecoming parade in Fall 2015.

    internships because they are very important. They provide you with real world experience in your field of study and can be a stepping-stone toward your future job. If you haven’t already started looking I recommend you do so soon! Summer internships normally have their applications open from early January until mid-February and require information like transcripts and letters of recommendation. UConn’s Center for Career Development has a lot of awesome information and advice that helped me when I applied.

  7. Apply for scholarships – Scholarships are so important these days because college is so expensive and debt is piling up. There are thousands of scholarships that can help lessen the financial burden. Topics range from being within your major all the way to writing an essay about a certain book or living in a certain town. UConn has an Office of National Scholarships, which is very helpful in finding specific scholarships, but a classic Google search is also informative.
  8. Find the right ways to study for class – Doing well in your classes is an essential part of having a successful semester! However, all classes and professors have such different teaching methods and testing strategies. Students can go talk to their professors about what material they should be studying, which is very
    Mindy visiting Hammonassett State Park over spring break.
    Mindy visiting Hammonassett State Park over spring break.

    helpful. And sometimes the first test or quiz might not go to well but when you get the hang of how your professor tests you can find the right ways to study for future assignments. Different ways to study could be how you take notes in class. Some people handwrite notes, print power points, type notes, or just listen. Another way to study would be to rewrite your notes or study every night for a single class for a certain amount of time.

  9. Spring Break!!! – Working hard in school is very important, however, relaxing and having fun is important too. Going somewhere for spring break gives you something to work towards and look forward to for the first 2 months of the semester! It’s also a great opportunity to relax for a week and clear your mind before you finish off the year.
  10. Budget your money – it’s so easy to spend over a thousand dollars a semester on food, clothes, and other random things. Then at the end of the semester you are going to wonder where all of your money went and wish you saved it or spent it on something else. It is important to budget your money and realize how much you’re spending when you order/buy something.
  11. Overall, keep going – On the days when you feel like you can’t look at another textbook or hear about another rare bacteria found in the middle of the rainforest, just breathe. Course work can be so stressful and overwhelming, however, it will get done and you will be okay. The key to a successful semester is to not give up and to keep going.

Are You Ready for CAHNR Career Night 2016?

The upcoming CAHNR Career Night scheduled for Wednesday November 2nd from 5:30-7:30 PM in Wilbur Cross North and South Reading Rooms is a valuable opportunity for all students – whether you’re a freshman looking to decide on a major, a sophomore or junior seeking an internship or a graduate school program, or a senior looking for a post-graduate career – the Career Night event is a moment for all students in any part of their college experience to capitalize on. One key item for students to keep in mind as they prepare for and then attend the Career Night program includes learning how to identify and then pursue the “gap” in the recruiting process as practiced by many employers at most career fairs.

What do I mean by “gap”? At most career fairs tabling organizations indicate their preferences for would-be recruits based on academic major often leading many students to incorrectly conclude the firm’s representative is not interested in talking about other career paths. However, in some instances, those employers also have other lines of business and job functions for which they are not expressly recruiting for at the Career Night program, but in which you have a strong interest in pursuing as it aligns with your career goals, and this is where some good old-fashioned research, reconnaissance, and preparation on your part come into play to find the “gaps.” By familiarizing yourself with the employers that will be attending the Career Fair, you can then go to the website and LinkedIn page of a few of those firms that strike your interest to see if they have a line a business that might have the need for someone with your skills, abilities and interests. You can then create Continue reading

“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

Start-Up Your Research Career

The summer 2016 interns and their mentors on presentation day.
The summer 2016 interns and their mentors on presentation day.

Did you ever have a product idea or insight that never got beyond the imagination stage? Many people do, but few people have experience with entrepreneurial startup companies that take the big leaps necessary to develop ideas into new services or technologies that create a market or meet customer needs. This may seem like a daunting idea to start your own company, but UConn has developed the Technology Incubation Program which provides facilities and services to support start-up companies and to promote technology development in the state of Connecticut. There are facilities at the UConn Storrs, Farmington, and Avery Point campuses which all provide laboratory and office space, access to instruments and equipment, and business and financial planning to startup companies.

In the laboratory checking for viability and counting cells on the microscope.
In the laboratory checking for viability and counting cells on the microscope.

Although you may not be ready to jump in and start your own company, you can still learn what it’s like to work for a start-up through the UConn-TIP Bioscience, Entrepreneurship & STEM Internship Program. This program was designed to pair undergraduate, graduate, and recent graduate students in the STEM field with one of the start-up companies in the UConn TIP program. During the ten week internship, the student will work on a project created by their sponsoring TIP mentor, and will attend a variety of workshops focused on career development, networking, preparing for grad/med school, and specific technology based talks.

This past summer, I was paired with a company called ImStem Biotechnology as a TIP intern at the Farmington UConn Health campus. ImStem aims to provide a cell therapy product using human pluripotent stem cells in order to treat a variety of human autoimmune disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. My specific project was to culture the stem cell product with human immune cells from various donors to detect for any activation of the immune cells. This project was important for the company because in order to move a drug onto the market, the FDA requires a series of safety studies to be performed to assure that the drug will not adversely affect the health of the patient. The data that I collected and analyzed was used in the proposal to the FDA for the continuation of ImStem’s drug development. At the end of the internship period, each student is required to Continue reading

Policy, Agriculture, and Science: the Unforeseen Ties

Tyler InternshipWhen I first enrolled as a Pathobiology major, I never thought much about the political process and how it impacts science. I thought that by taking a basic civics course in high school that I knew more than enough about the government and how a bill becomes a law. After taking one political science class sophomore year, I realized just how wrong I was. While science is something that is often objective and testable, the way science is implemented in society is messy. Things like: religion, finances, ethics, and personal vendettas can either take scientific research and use it to benefit the general public, or use it as a tool for discrimination and misrepresentation of facts. It has been seen before. From using information on HIV as a way to hinder LGBT+ people in healthcare, to having environmental science affect our energy policies in the United States and abroad, public policy and politics have great effects on not only public health, but science and agriculture itself. Even our programs at UConn are affected by public policy in the form of budget cuts.

In order to learn more and get a hands on experience, I obtained a position as an intern for the Connecticut General Assembly, the legislative branch for our state, through UConn’s Political Science department. As an intern, I had the opportunity to apply my knowledge of pathobiology as well as my experiences at UConn from UConn Model United Nations and Undergraduate Student Government. I often conducted research on various issues ranging from veterans affairs to public health. I was able to observe various hearings and meetings regarding vital programs that actually made Connecticut the second state to end homelessness for veterans as well as Continue reading

Refocusing Your Passions

Yarden competing in GymnasticsPrior to college, I followed practically the same routine each day. I would go to school, go to practice for four hours, come home, do my homework, stretch, and sleep. I did this happily for the sport I love, gymnastics.

Gymnastics was my whole world growing up. That is, until the day I found out I had stress fractured two of my spinal vertebrae. I only found this out after competing for an entire season on the injury I didn’t know I had. This left me with irreparable damage to my back and quite lost in this world. All I had ever known was taken away from me in a moment. So what happens when the only thing you know is gone in an instant?

There I was, confused, flustered and quite heartbroken. I didn’t know a world without gymnastics in it. Every doctor I saw told me the same disheartening news; I wasn’t going to get back into gymnastics. That was when I began aggressive physical therapy, in hopes of a full recovery. I went several times a week, followed the exercises religiously. My physical therapist became more to me than someone who helped me physically feel better. I felt stronger mentally, like I could conquer anything. Eventually, I started getting better. I was remarkably able to make a comeback. My life felt like it came back together with the help of my physical therapist. This was when I decided I wanted to help others the way she helped me. That was when I found my career path.

This is the answer to my question, “So what happens when the only thing you know is gone in an instant?” It’s simple; you Continue reading

Why it is Okay to be Unsure

When it came time to start college, I found myself a little lost about which major to go with.  Being Pre-Med I thought I had to go the traditional biology or chemistry route. I realized that I wasn’t that passionate for either of those options and the stress began to pile up. It felt like I was making a life or death decision. What I didn’t know at the time was that there were several majors and tracks out there for me to follow which all could lead me to my ultimate goals. I was lucky enough to hear about Allied Health Sciences from one of my coworkers and as soon as I read up on it I knew it was the right fit for me. For some of you that are currently stressing over the different potential majors, there’s one thing I can tell you: It’ll all be okay!

JohnGarcia
Assisting a surgical procedure while studying abroad in South Africa.

UConn has amazing counselors and advisors that will make this decision much easier. They take the time and will walk you through the stressful parts and ease your tension. Since they have helped hundreds of students that have been in your position, they’re well versed in what you need and what you’re feeling. While some stress and anxiety during this process is normal and expected, you have to recognize that this is not a make it or break it decision. The reason for this is that most majors require the same general education courses. While you’re taking those – usually during your first two years – you have a chance to explore the different options and find the right fit for you. You can do all of this without disturbing your planned time table in college. Everyone’s experience will not be the same – you wouldn’t want it to be anyway. Your interests and passions might change over time and all you can do is accept it and go with it.  Just understand that there is room for thing to change!

The initial college plan that I had my freshman year was not even close to what it turned out to be. In my head, I was going to graduate in 4 years and start medical school right away. Five years later, I’m still here (graduating May 7th!) but I’ve taken advantage of everything UConn had to offer me. I’ve made friends that will remain with me for life, joined a frat and even got to study abroad twice! Life – especially college life – is full of surprises. Plan A might not always work out, but don’t worry Plan B tends to be much better.

Adventure Time in Taiwan

This was where my internship took place.
This was where my internship took place.

Everyone breathes a huge sigh of relief after senior year of high school when those endless rounds of SATs have passed and college applications are finally done. Shortly after I started college, however, I realized that high school senior year was just the tip of the iceberg. Like so many others, I was juggling a job, extracurriculars, and scholarship applications on top of classes. I was also constantly searching for internships to immerse myself in the real world – this required the most persistence, but my efforts paid off in the end.

This past summer, I was fortunate enough to earn a place at National Taiwan University through a professor there who was also an old family friend. From mid-May to the end of July, I worked as an intern in one of their labs, helping to investigate genetic causes of prostate cancer. During my free time, I wandered off on my own around Taiwan, exploring popular landmarks and eating everything the country had to offer – all of which was a nice break from college life. Although I frequently visited Taiwan as a child, I never fully appreciated my visits until this summer when I was mostly on my own. Here are some major highlights: Continue reading