Internships/Career Advice

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

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and Into Your Environment

Pick Your Own StrawberriesIf you had told 10-year-old me that I would spend three summers of my college career working on farms, I wouldn’t have believed you for a second. There would be no way to convince me that I would be feeding pumpkins to pigs while rubbing their bellies or teaching little kids which strawberries are the ripe ones and how to pick them, or that I would be identifying weeds for fun. To most, spending hours weeding thousand foot strawberry fields in 90 degree weather in July doesn’t sound like the perfect summer day, but to me it does. Despite the hard work that comes with working on farms, the experiences and knowledge that come from the day-to-day work is expansive and has impacted my life and helped guide the career path I am pursuing.

For the past two summers I have been an Agriculture and Retail Intern at Jones Family Farms in Shelton, CT, a farm that specializes in “Pick Your Own” strawberries, blueberries, pumpkins and Christmas trees. Day in and day out, the work done by interns on the farm is essential to maintain the plants being cultivated throughout the year. This includes mulching baby Christmas trees, weeding strawberry fields, blossom clipping baby strawberry plants, trimming Christmas trees, and harvesting different types of veggies for customers to enjoy. On top of this hard work, interns spend a large amount of time Continue reading

Tips on Finding Student Employment

Going to college is an amazing experience both academically and socially, but it can be very expensive, as most students know. Tuition, housing, food, gas, utilities, and school supplies can add up to quite a large amount. On top of that, any additional costs such as season basketball tickets, concert tickets, and daily trips to the Dairy Bar can really put a strain on your budget.

Getting a job while attending school is an excellent way to offset some of the many expenses incurred at college. In addition to this, having a job while attending college can help build your resume while you are earning a degree which can give you an advantage in the job field after graduation. Also, you won’t have to experience the fear of missing out on any once in a lifetime opportunities such as studying abroad or taking a trip with friends for spring break.

I am staining a set of Western Blot strips for a Lyme disease test at the CVMDL.
I am staining a set of Western Blot strips for a Lyme disease test at the CVMDL.

A great place to start your job search is by using the employment resources offered by the university through the UConn student employment website. There is a job search engine where you can set your preferences and look at the available jobs and see what qualifications are necessary. Job opportunities range from working at a dining hall, to driving vans for community outreach, to working in a lab, or working at the gym. There are many jobs to choose from and the postings are updated regularly, so check back often if nothing fits your preferences. You can also visit the Student Financial Aid Services office on the first floor of the Wilbur Cross Building which contains student employment services. They can answer any questions and assist with filling out the necessary paperwork for an on-campus job.

Another employment option is working at a privately owned business on or near campus. Storrs center has many businesses including Moe’s, Geno’s Grille, and CVS which all hire students regularly. With all the new construction in Storrs center, new businesses are opening often so keep an eye out for help-wanted flyers. There are also many businesses along North Eagleville Road including Dunkin Donuts and Baja Café that hire students.

I have had an on-campus job working in the serology department at the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) for the past two and a half years. I stumbled upon the opportunity when one of my professors mentioned that the lab needed student workers. I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience because I have received hands on training in diagnostic technique for pathogens such as Salmonella, Equine Infectious Anemia, Avian Influenza, and Lyme disease. In addition to this, I have met some amazing staff members in the Pathobiology department who have given valuable advice on classes, internships, and my future career. The professors and staff from your department can be great resources, so keep an eye out for any opportunities that may come your way. Finding employment opportunities within your field of interest can be a rewarding and valuable experience, and can help pay the bills!

 

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

Summer Meals Program

Summer Meals Program
Summer Meals Program

The summer is a time of experience for all university students. Some would say that it is an extension of them as a person; others would say it is a time to do something that is out of their comfort zone, few would say that it was a waste of time. Personally, summer is a wonderful time to pursue an opportunity that I am not able to partake in due to attending UConn during the school year.

In the Spring 2015 semester, I was taking Food Policy with ARE Professor Adam Rabinowitz. One day he mentioned an opportunity to work with an organization called End Hunger CT! as an AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate. I leapt at the opportunity to try something new, and in this case it was hunger related issues. Additionally the job would have me working out of New Haven and Hartford which sparked my interest due to how unfamiliar these places were.

Colin, mobile Summer Meals Program
Colin, mobile Summer Meals Program

I worked with End Hunger CT! to expand the Summer Meals Program in New Haven, especially the newly developed mobile meal sites to reach as many children as possible. In the issue of food, access tends to be a huge factor in feeding people. Not everyone has a car, some people are located in “food deserts”, getting to healthy, nutritious food is not accessible for everyone. So the New Haven Public Schools Food Services along with a variety of partners, decided to bring the food to areas where concentrations of kids could access a healthy breakfast, lunch or supper throughout the school-less summer. It was successful and the entire summer experience had a lasting impact on me.

Many of us take food for granted. It is a daily normality, eating three (or more) meals a day. Whether it is swiping into a dining hall to experience an unlimited banquet of food or cooking in our own homes, food is not something we worry about. This summer was an eye opening experience for me. Not only the time commitment of being in AmeriCorps VISTA but also the effect that not having food would have on a person’s day. Imagine trying to study for finals without food in your stomach, playing intramural sports while craving sustenance. Now picture a child trying to learn while hungry. How productive could they be, how much would they enjoy doing work, would they be able to learn while hungry?

If this post has sparked your interest, go to http://www.endhungerct.org/ to learn more about Hunger in Connecticut and check out the Oxfam America Hunger Banquet which will happen next semester and will be sponsored by The College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources College Ambassadors.

Reconsidering the Pre-Vet Track

When people hear you want to work with animals, most reply with “so you want to be a vet?”  Somehow we have been led to believe that becoming a veterinarian is the only way to work with animals as a professional. As I write this entry, I can sit back and be glad that I never hit that “send” button on my vet school application. What I am doing now is much better suited to my personality, learning style, and interests than veterinary medicine ever could be. I am a graduate student at Purdue University in Animal Behavior and Welfare, and I’m loving every minute of it!

Sunrise at the Pig Farm
Sunrise at the Pig Farm

Graduate School is a pleasant change from undergrad when it comes to classes. Undergrad classes, especially those in the sciences, have a tendency for dependence on rogue memorization and learning facts. While that may be necessary when developing knowledge on a certain topic, it was not my favorite way to learn. I prefer the analytical style of graduate school classes. I am no longer simply learning information, but analyzing what things mean and how research findings can be applied in theory and principle. For the most part, this also means less homework and tests, and more of a focus on understanding and analysis.

I also prefer the way time is split in graduate school compared to undergrad. When I applied to Purdue, I was lucky enough to get a research assistantship, meaning I spend half of my time in class and the other half doing research. In undergrad I had to spend most of my time studying, and on an awkward schedule around when I had other classes. Now, because I spend half of my time in research, I only have to take 2 classes per semester. Not only does this Continue reading

The Old Man and the Sea

Age 4, early morning walk on the beach in Provincetown with my grandfather.
Age 4, early morning walk on the beach in Provincetown with my grandfather.

“If the sun is up, you’re up” were the dreaded words to hear from my bedroom doorway at 6:00am, as the sun began to creep over the dunes in Provincetown, Massachusetts. My grandfather’s motto was if the fish and clams were awake, we were awake and there was no time to lose.  As a teenager, those wakeup calls were painful, but without them I wouldn’t be the person I am today. As I got older, I grew to love the early mornings on the beach. In fact, that was the time I spent exploring the ocean world with my grandfather, Puppy, which spurred my love for marine fisheries and sent me on my way to UConn to study just that. Looking back at my time here at UConn, I have faced down every obstacle or challenge that has come my way with something I learned from my grandfather on the water.

 

Curiosity. As we walked across the sandbars at low tide, we weren’t just walking through a murky tidal pool; whole new worlds opened up in each little splash of water. When I asked about a strange looking critter, even the man who seemed to know everything would say, “Beats me, but we can find out.” Never stop exploring and asking questions. The second you do, life gets pretty boring. Join clubs, take some random classes, try something completely new; as my grandfather said, Continue reading

10 Tips to Improve Your Graduate School Application

Dustin standing by Koons Hall, home to the Doctor of Physical Therapy program he will attend starting this summer.
Dustin standing by Koons Hall, home to the Doctor of Physical Therapy program he will attend starting this summer.

Let’s face it…filling out an application to get into graduate school feels like high school all over again. Will I get in? What if I don’t get in? Should I fix my essay? Are my grades good enough?

After going through the entire application process, I’ve decided to highlight the most important parts of the application. My goal is to help every UConn CAHNR student looking into graduate school to use these ten tips to have a stand-out application. There is also an extended version for anyone interested in a particular topic! I used these tips in my graduate school application and it led to my acceptance into UConn’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program.

 

  1. Boost your GPA

My tips: Research the average GPA for accepted students at the graduate programs you are thinking about applying to in the future. If you are worried about your GPA, put the effort in to improve the rest of your application (including ALL the parts of this Top 10 list). And remember, be confident…you are at UConn because you are smart enough and worked hard to get here!

 

  1. Search for Relevant Work Experience

My tips: Find a job that incorporates your future career. Continue reading