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When I was in undergrad, I got myself a paid island vacation.
I applied for the one Canadian Internship at the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo and got it! I pestered the shit out of those poor admin people of course. I had almost become content working at my partner's parents' store all summer, even did training because I hadn't heard back, but I wasn't satisfied with this outcome. So, I called again, and again, and again, AND finally, I got the email saying I had been selected. Commence booking a flight and figuring out what food I could not live without that needed to come with me.
My summer was a vacation, that occasionally smelt of fish, but it was absolutely amazing. I trained seals, fed and engaged sea turtles, played puzzles with the resident octopus, and had a summer in the middle of the ocean on a gorgeous tropical Island. My undergrad programs didn't require an internship, I searched and set it up on my own, I wanted to have a unique learning experience.
So how can you enjoy fun in the sun, or a destination summer paid for? Well, for starters, you need to have the motivation to apply for internships. More importantly, don't take it too hard if you never hear from them, because that is a thing and you can't control it. Some places will not even email you to reject you, they just keep you hanging and hoping in limbo.
- Make it easier for yourself. Try and find a contact for every posting you apply to, avoid the admin offices, try smaller departments or the people who are working the job you want, they are more likely to pick-up and help you out…even if it just to tell you they already hired someone. Just keep on swimming through those job postings!
- Don't feel like you need to know what career you want, just go for an experience. I felt set that I wanted to get into Marine Biology, be an aquarist. After this experience, I still find it so fascinating and love the sea and all its residents, but it wasn't going to be my life career.
- Know where to look, I happened to stumble across the internships at the aquarium by pure wonder. I had vacationed there with family a lot and thought, I wonder if there is anything there to take me back. If you are interested in animals broadly, check every single zoo website, conservation or rehab facility, and aquarium you know of. If you are out of province, state, country some provide housing covered, or subsidized. A great website is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) job board, there are also links to other places, like Europe. Disney has internships, and animal experience attractions like Dolphin Quest's have training programs you can sign-up to learn animal behaviour and how to be an animal trainer.
- Lastly, be assertive! Like I said above, I pestered those poor people in the office in Bermuda, they knew who I was, that I applied and that I was waiting to hear back from them. Not sure if you are qualified? Call and ask, or, better yet call and ask questions. Get to know the person on the other end of the phone, whether it’s the head keeper, the husbandry director, figure out who's hiring or who you would be working under and talk to them about their job. Putting a name and interests out there does nothing but help create awareness about you and a memorable moment when they come across your application again.