Trying out the real world

charles-zhouSummer is well under way, and it’s been a while since the second-years have left us with their parting advice on this blog. All of the rising second-years are busy at their internships, some of which are blogging here, here, and here.

Before I talk about my internship, I’m going to briefly describe the search. It was tough and frustrating, but also an invaluable learning experience. I didn’t have my first internship offer until almost mid-April, which is really late considering some friends had their internships lined up in October. However, the search most clearly demonstrated the purpose of SPH: to prepare students for a journey into the real world, the first step of which is to find a job. If you happen to be a first-year struggling to find an internship, my advice would be what every second-year told me: just keep looking and everything will be fine in the end. Something will work out.

The search for an internship forced me to act on opportunities quickly, pursue them relentlessly, and create them where they didn’t exist. Throughout the school year, I applied for many positions related to environmental health (many vaguely so) that the career office, professors, and friends let me know about. My first offer was extended by the Ecology Center, a wonderful local nonprofit that does very interesting work. I had sent them an email out of the blue, as internships weren’t advertised on their website, and only really knew about them because several friends had worked there in the past.

The second offer was from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Ann Arbor, which I applied for after a professor forwarded an email. After a month of waiting for paperwork to bounce around various government agencies, I finally got to start last week. My internship is strange in a couple ways. First, I’m working with SmartWay, a voluntary partnership between industry and the EPA. As a regulatory agency, the EPA’s main job is to enforce rules, so the word “voluntary” doesn’t come up very often when discussing the EPA. Second, I’m a person with a science background in a science-based program at SPH, but I’m primarily a communications intern. However, I get to see how science, government, and industry interact, and not many other internships can offer that.

SmartWay’s goal is to reduce emissions from freight movement by encouraging use of technologies and strategies that reduce fuel consumption, leading to cleaner air and fewer greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Most of the program’s efforts are focused on trucking, as it is the primary way that the goods we use every day are transported in the United States. Others include rail, marine/barge, and air, as well as logistics companies and affiliates, groups that support SmartWay. Over 3000 companies and organizations participate in SmartWay, which turned 10 years old back in February. For the rest of us who don’t ship goods, we can buy a SmartWay certified car.

This is my first time working at a job where I spend almost all of my time in an office. I admit that having my own cubicle and phone line makes me feel important, though I’m still getting used to working in a small, boxed-in area. I’m also acclimating to working for a governmental agency, which has its mysteries. However, everybody has been friendly, offering advice and answering my many questions. I’ve learned more about the trucking and transportation industry in the past couple weeks than I ever thought I’d need to know. In any case, it’s good to be trying out the real world for a few months.

That’s enough for now–more to follow in future posts!

One thought on “Trying out the real world

  1. Pingback: Government internship, round 2 | SPH Life - Student Blog

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