My favorite part of any experience whether it be an internship, academic semester, or major life event, is everything you learn in between the lines.

This summer I worked on multiple projects like northern spotted owl surveying, mission blue butterfly monitoring, coyote tracking, stream insect sampling, and much more. The technical and professional skills I developed are invaluable moving forward. These aspects of the internship will be displayed and talked about on my resume and CV in the years to come, but I want to share the personal details that mean much more.

My first day of the internship was exciting but slightly embarrassing. I was told I needed to show up with appropriate boots, pants, and additional attire for fieldwork—I had none of that. Growing up I never visited a national park, let alone go out for hikes. I am the first college student in my family and the first scientist. Most of my knowledge of natural landscapes was learned through textbooks and in the confine of a classroom. I began hiking and exploring my potential in outdoor environments as a young adult, but these were just recreational activities. When I began my fieldwork for the SIP internship I was thrown into a new world. I was challenged physically, mentally, and economically. This was a moment where I felt discouraged and a bit ashamed. I didn’t have the resources necessary to conduct my fieldwork. But the program stepped up and helped me access these resources. It was here when I realized that despite my disadvantage I was going to receive the resources and support necessary to succeed.

Andrea S. holding a SF Garter Snake while surveying in Pacifica, Ca. ( Image: Gabi D.)

For people who didn’t grow up around the outdoors, academia, or science in general. Internships like the SIP program can be intimidating. Luckily, I was blessed with two amazing mentors, Bill and Rachel who provided the space to grow as a scientist and individual. In addition to my mentors, I was warmly welcomed by an inclusive and supportive staff. I was invited to multiple sites with different people on the natural resources team to experience a bit of everything. We surveyed SF garter snakes, grunions, plovers, and conducted aquatic ecology work. My biggest moment of growth was working on the coyote project. I was tasked to go out and track the coyotes and was the first to analyze the data and make the connections.

My feelings of intimidation and imposter syndrome calmed when I realized the teams from both my program and project site were there for me. My biggest lesson learned was not the technical or professional skills, but the realization that I am capable even when it doesn’t feel like it. I am an important contributor and professional even when I don’t believe it myself. As my journey comes to an end I cannot help but wish I could do it again, it was truly a life-changing experience. I want to say thank you to all those who helped me during my journey to find within myself that I am exactly where I need to be.