Published on February 1, 2018, at 1:13 p.m.
by Cara Bolt.
When I was little, I dreamed of being the Crocodile Hunter. Every day at 4 p.m. (yes, I still remember the time it came on), I would be parked in front of a television for an hour of entertainment and thrills. My dreams came crashing down to Earth, and reality hit when I realized I was terrified at the sight of spiders and bugs.
I made my dream come true by applying for a summer internship with the Montgomery Zoo. Thanks to this experience, I gained insights about myself.
Here’s what I learned:
Volunteer and volunteer
My internship was unpaid, so I decided to make the most of it. I promised myself I would do anything they asked or needed.
There were many instances when I would have to go supervise the giraffe encounter. This involved collecting people’s money in exchange for a cup of grass and hay (which was great for my allergies) to feed the giraffes. I will admit that when it was slow, as it could be during the heat of the day, I would go out and feed the giraffes myself. Despite being a sneezy mess by the end of my shift, I loved it.
I also volunteered to work events, which meant sometimes giving up my Saturday and taking photos in over 100-degree weather. I shot some great pictures and got to interact with many guests. All I had to remember to do was to hydrate in advance. My favorite activity was painting children’s faces (sorry kids). I learned how to adapt when the butterfly I was drawing wasn’t going to be a butterfly but more of caterpillar with some weird splotches.
Enjoy the little things
As I mentioned before, one of my jobs was photographing animals for updates to the website. This responsibility afforded me the opportunity to walk around the zoo and enjoy many beautiful summer mornings. I can’t tell you how many times I crouched down to get a great shot of a tiger or lion. One of the most memorable experiences was when the elephants decided to immerse themselves in the water, and I was able to get several shots of them playing and cooling off. I was jealous the entire time.
The ability to walk around the grounds was great whenever I was stuck creatively on a project. The walks cleared my head, and I gained fresh insights that allowed me to solve the problem.
Hindsight is 20/20, and the one thing I wish I could go back to change is finding my voice a lot sooner. Every Wednesday, I would be pulled into a meeting with the marketing director, the public relations director and the assistant zoo director. It took some time to get into the groove of things, but I wish I had spoken up sooner in those meetings. No idea is a bad idea, and with such a creative job, you can get really imaginative.
Sometimes the unconventional internships lead to the best experiences.