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Kayla Huntoon: Internship or Adventure?

Internships are the big first step into our future career but imagine if this big step was not only filled with important professional experiences, but life changing adventures as well. This summer, I had the amazing opportunity to complete an internship while living in a new country, allowing me to fully immerse myself into a new culture while gaining important career developing skills. I’ve always had a desire to travel the world, and it had been a dream of mine to study abroad. With most of my college experience being altered by the global pandemic, I lost hope that I would have the chance to study abroad. During my 3rd year of college, as I felt my final year of college rapidly approaching, I started growing anxious about not having an internship experience yet. I knew some form of professional experience in my field was a priority before graduation, but I felt a calling for adventure as I started watching my peers fly off and experience life changing study abroad trips when the world opened back up as the pandemic finally settled. After lots of internet searching, I came across the idea of a study abroad internship, something I had never heard or even thought of. Soon enough I found myself applying for a study abroad internship program through ISA Worldstrides. Shortly after followed an interview, which led to an internship offer. Before I knew it, I was packing my bags and jetting off to Dublin, Ireland, where I would live for the next 2 and half months completing a full-time internship.

My summer internship was with Airfield Estate, a small local environmental tourism company in Dublin, Ireland. Airfield Estate is a historic property that currently operates as a working farm and gardens, dedicated to becoming Dublin’s sustainable food hub. Airfield offers the public with educational opportunities through tours, engaging exhibits, and classes. Guests can also dine at Airfields restaurant, Overends kitchen, which uses ingredients sourced right from the farm and gardens. Airfield has a strong focus and commitment to sustainability, using sustainable practices within all their operations.

Some of these practices that caught my immediate attention included water reclamation, use of solar panels, composting, and most interesting to me was their new aerobic digester for organic waste. I worked the role of Airfield’s Sustainability intern, working with John O’Toole, the company’s director of operations and sustainability. Throughout my internship, I assisted in various tasks around the property. I worked with the Airfields education team to lead school tours, educating children on sustainable food production. I also worked with older age groups on circular economy tours, where the education team and I led visitors through the innovative steps that Airfield takes to operate as a circular economy. Additionally, I helped Airfield operate their newest exhibit, World of Science, an engaging soil exhibit that educates visitors on the importance of soil and how it sustains life on earth. It felt extremely rewarding to help spread knowledge about sustainability to the local community in Dublin.

Image of the new “World of Soil” exhibit at Airfield Estate. I assisted in operating this exhibit to promote sustainability initiatives to visitors.

While every day at Airfield Estate was a learning adventure, my main project during the internship was particularly impactful. I was tasked with calculating the company’s carbon footprint. This project required meticulous data collection and research on the estate’s utilities and operational procedures. By the end of my time at Airfield, I was able to successfully calculate the company’s carbon emissions and compare my findings to previous years. The most rewarding part of this project was the ability to see the payoff of Airfield’s sustainability initiatives. Through their recent implementation of an aerobic digester to reduce organic waste, their carbon emissions from waste significantly decreased. Their use of solar panels, water reclamation, composting, and other sustainable initiatives all positively impacted their carbon footprint by reducing their emissions. I found it extremely rewarding to be able to illustrate the positive impact of sustainable business practices.

As a student completing their degree in Natural Resources with a passion for the environment and sustainability, I found not only my internship to be extremely educational, but my time living in Ireland as well. During my time in Ireland, I could feel my own carbon footprint diminishing. I was able to easily live a more sustainable daily lifestyle, I walked to work every day, ate an amazing sustainable diet, and was producing significantly less waste. This is because the daily lifestyle in Ireland is naturally more sustainable than my life in America. Each household composts, recycling is properly separated, clean energy is prioritized, the city is walkable, public transportation is easily accessible, food is locally sourced, businesses are truthfully committed to sustainability, and the list goes on. Living in a country so dedicated to sustainability left me inspired to come home and dedicate my career after college to creating this kind of future for my own country.

Having the opportunity to not only complete an exciting and rewarding internship, but to also experience living in a different country was something I will never forget. Every day I was immersing myself into Irish culture. I got to work with Irish people, participate in the local community around me, enjoy amazing Irish food, learn all about Irish history, listen and dance to traditional music, experience living in the wonderful city of Dublin, and travel all around the beautiful country. I truly fell in love with the country of Ireland, and my time there was more than just completing an internship, it was a life changing adventure.

Obseriving Ireland’s native plants on the Airfield Estate property during the first week of my internship.

Looking forward, my internship experience abroad with Airfield Estate has provided me with a clearer vision for my future career. The project I worked on during my internship analyzing carbon emissions and sustainability reporting strengthened my desire to go into a career in environmental consulting which would require me to complete similar tasks. Traveling abroad for my internship has strengthened my desire to go into a career that will allow me to travel and continue exploring the world. My experience living abroad has also encouraged me to widen the locations of my job search after graduation and be more open to re-locating to a new area post-grad.

In the end, my internship experience turned into an unforgettable life-changing adventure. I gained valuable professional experience that I am eager to apply in my future career post-graduation. I made amazing connections from the relationships I formed with the friendly people of Ireland. Although I faced challenges adjusting to my life in a completely new place, I believe these challenges have made me stronger and more adaptable I was able to experience immersing myself into a new culture, something I hope to continue doing throughout my future. Overall, I strongly believe this experience helped me grow as a person, I feel more independent responsible, open-minded, and confident.