Unique Internships and Volunteer Opportunities

Published Tuesday, May 31, 2011 by Tarang

Many internships can be challenging, educational, and fun. I wrote about internships on this blog before, and I focused mainly on my biotechnology internship. I found my internship through my high school, which is where one should start looking automatically. However, not everyone aspires to be a molecular biology major, and some students want to seek out internships from the “less-trodden” path. There are a large variety of opportunities available, but many students just haven’t heard the choices available to them. So-called traditional internships might involve working in a research lab or a large company. These experiences can be invaluable, but they have come to be regarded as the norm and seem to steal the spotlight. Let us shine the spotlight on rarer internships (still at large institutions, just outside your radar):

1. Zoo internships

Most students interested in biology hear about the internship opportunities of research labs at various universities and pharmaceutical companies, but not all of biology involves sitting at a lab bench. Many students are interested in other aspects of bio such as zoology, ecology, and conservation. Zoo internships are diverse and range from working directly with wild animals to teaching visitors about the exhibits. These internships offer lots of outdoor work, manual labor, community interaction, and animal interaction. The San Francisco Zoo offers internships and teen volunteer activities. For those who enjoy being out in fresh air, these are the perfect summer activities. Internships involve training animals, coordinating volunteer activities, and helping at Zoo Camp for kids. Volunteers can also assist camp instructors, interact with wild animals, and participate in wildlife habitat cleanup around the bay. Zoo internships are great for future pre-meds as well because they teach about anatomy and physiology.

SF Zoo: http://www.sfzoo.com/ (click on Jobs/Volunteer link)

Oakland Zoo: http://www.oaklandzoo.org/support-the-zoo/volunteer-opportunities/

Cheetah with trainer at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

2. Media Internships

Many students are interested in movies and want to learn more about film-making. Others want to learn about multimedia. However, such internships are hard to find locally and often involve relocation to major media hubs such as NYC and LA. This can be daunting but there are media internships actually available at all sorts of locations. Media internships include social media such as blogging, journalism, radio, TV, and film. Try contacting local radio stations or local newspapers directly as their internship opportunities are often not listed online. Many large channels such as Discovery also offer high school internships. Other places to look are media studies departments of large schools such as Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, etc. For example, UC Berkeley maintains a Pacific Film Archive which is a great place to gain exposure to film and media. Another place to get media internships is at Craigslist; small companies often post their need for interns there since they may not have their own websites.Such internships involve writing for independent magazines or producing radio shows.

3. Smithsonian and other museums

These are for the history and knowledge buffs. Internships are available at places like the Smithsonian. Not everyone can up and leave to DC so try your local museum as well. For those in the SF Bay Area, the San Jose Tech Museum is a good place to start: http://www.thetech.org/about/volunteer/#hischool. Most museums actively look for high school volunteers to help explain exhibits or assist in the reception area. Museums are also accessible since there are museums in practically every good size city. The Smithsonian is a prestigious place to intern as it has the largest collections: http://intern.si.edu/internship_types_all.html.

4. Government

Government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency also actively seek out high school students. Try http://www.student.gov/ for government listings of opportunities in practically every field of interest. Just like the Smithsonian, most large government agencies like to establish mutually beneficial relations with students. The government website is expansive, so I will let you explore that on your own.


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