From Puppies to Skinks: How Internships Shaped my Career Path

by Apurva Gangakhedkar

I know you are most likely expected to get some kind of internship and/or volunteer position over the summer; however, it can be quite hard for students interested in animals to find a position that they love that also gives them relevant experience. As someone looking ahead to veterinary school, I want to share the different types of internships that I did to step out of my comfort zone, learn a lot and still enjoy my summer.

            Of course, I started off contacting many veterinary clinics to ask about any type of volunteer position, internship, or shadowing that might be available, but it wasn’t easy to find one willing to take me on. Persistence paid off because I finally received a position at a vet clinic as a clinic assistant, helping both technicians and veterinarians. It was a great hands-on experience, learning about vaccines, where they’re injected, bloodwork, and how each exam is given based on the current problem. I was even allowed to watch surgeries from when pets would become anesthetized to when they got to go home. My routine was very similar every day, depending on the time I would come in and leave. My day in the morning would start off with getting all the equipment turned on, looking ahead to the next patients coming in and admitting any surgery patients we had that morning. From there, I would assist the technicians in the exam room and equip the veterinarians with any tools or equipment needed during surgery. One of the best experiences I had working at the clinic was when I assisted with an emergency c-section on a dog. The experience was so thrilling. Being able to see little puppies coming out of the womb, warming them up and seeing them healthy and alive, really excited me to continue on to veterinary medicine. Alongside that, I was able to develop my communication skills with clients and get to know them personally while working at the front desk. Here I could learn all the office management skills in case they needed some extra help in the front as well. Lastly, I made valuable connections with all my co-workers and the veterinarians who taught me so well and gave me the motivation to continue my journey to vet school.

After working at the clinic, I wanted a different experience with animals to see if this was the right path for sure. I contacted a nearby zoo and was able to get an internship there working with exotic animals. In this environment, I got to work with a wide variety of species on different days. I had to learn their diets and observe their behaviors in order to see if they had any changes on a daily basis. I was constantly on my toes, learning about new animals every day, ones that I have never heard of, and ones that I knew but got to know better.  It’s fascinating to see how each animal is so different but so similar in their own way. A new experience that the zoo added to the internship was assigning one animal that you would get to work with the entire summer, and for me it was a blue tongued skink. When I first saw this, I thought they made a typo and were giving me a skunk, but a blue tongued skink is really an animal!

Meet the skink!

I was able to look up facts about the skink and learn its behavior inside and outside of its home. For an hour a day we would let children come and pet the skink and answer any questions they had. It was really exciting to show people a  species that they haven’t seen before and were as interested in as I was. I never thought that working at the zoo would change my career path, but it did, and now I want to focus more on exotic animals.

New experiences can shape the course of your life. Working, volunteering, or interning is a great way to find this out. I recommend reaching out to try new things, even if it takes a while, and maybe it will change your path like it did mine.