Clearwater Marine Aquarium
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Amanda Beck

Major: Psychology
Minor: Marine Science
Hometown: University Park

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I found out about the type of internship through watching Shark Week on the Discovery Channel when I was young. I have since been fascinated with marine life. I knew I wanted to further my education this summer and get to experience new things so I thought I would research online about open positions. I was telling a family friend about what my summer plans would be and she recommended I apply to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium near Tampa, FL where she grew up. Once I looked up the aquarium I knew this was something I wanted to do.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

Interning at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium has been an experience of a lifetime. I can't even begin to explain how much I've learned from this opportunity. I started in the education department, helping take inventory of education supplies and prepping for summer camps. I worked on developing a camp that had been previously created but was missing all curriculum. From this work I developed a camp called Dinos of the Sea; a camp all about turtles, prehistoric dinosaurs, and other research-based topics that incorporate fun and learning for these full week camps. I never realized how much researching skills would come in use during real life projects. I also received many lessons in customer service, by dealing with parents of the campers, aquarium guests, and campers. During the day, I get stopped a minimum of 5 times while trying to complete a task or supervising campers by public aquarium guests asking about the resident animals and rehabbing guest animals. Another very important lesson I’ve learned is how critical wording can be, working in a field that has been under much scrutiny lately can cause many problems. Many conservationists and people who believe captive animals are being mistreated come to in a sense “spy” on how we treat our animals. Using the wrong phrasing can mean something very different to different people and that could be spread very quickly and cause immense repercussions. This is just the tip of the ice-berg, I’ve learned an incredible amount of knowledge about so many different topics, I am very thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given.

How did this experience impact you academically?

I have been impacted in a huge way academically. My internship experience has taught me more than I ever hoped to learn in one summer. I have completed tasks far beyond what my internship description called for, such as completing a week lesson plan about dinosaurs which involved a lot of research and a lot of extra time. I also became certified in scuba diving, a long time goal for me, and have already used my skills to join the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Dive Team. I get to help take care of the animals and clean their pools. Another part of my daily job is talking to aquarium guests; answering any questions, giving directions, and recommendations to tourists, this has given me a different perspective for dealing with customer service. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to keep all of the knowledge I've gathered.

My internship experience has taught me more than I ever hoped to learn in one summer. 

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

My career goals include working with my psychology major in the medical field while I establish myself in graduate school to receive my doctorate in neurology. I plan to use my minor in marine science to research and help with shark conservation throughout my life. I believe that this experience has truly helped to further my education and maturity in a way that I would not have received otherwise. I was thrown into this experience in a whirlwind after applying to this particular program on a whim. I have never been very independent or even had a job. I felt very inexperienced and naive going into this, now two months later I feel as though I am a very different person; I have gained a sense of responsibility that I never thought I would have. I am very aware that everything I do falls on me, whether that be an intern responsibility or personal. This job has taught me what it's like to be an adult, stuck in the routine but at a job I love. I will admit getting up at 5 am, five days a week has been very difficult for me. I am at the aquarium a minimum of nine hours a day, and I can honestly say I've never committed to anything that rigorous before. This internship has also confirmed a few suspicions of mine; before starting this I had been pretty sure I wanted to change my major to work solely on marine sciences, even if that meant relocating permanently and changing everything I had worked so hard to accomplish. At this point, half way through, I've realized that while I will forever have a passion for this, it's not my ideal career. I will continue my minor of marine science to pursue my passion for shark conservation, but I will not be changing my major. I will continue the path I'm on, for now, grateful for having this experience.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would highly recommend this program to anyone in the interest of marine sciences. To be completely honest if you are looking for a strictly liberal arts internship, this is probably not the correct one for you. Most of the tasks you do will be marine science based.

For more information on internships for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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