This past summer, I completed an internship at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in Gaithersburg, Maryland. I applied for and accepted the internship through a program at Princeton, Princeton Internships in Civic Service, which provides students funding to complete otherwise unpaid internships in the public service sector. During my two months at the HSUS, I worked in the Public Relations department, and gained a treasure trove of valuable experience that will hopefully translate to positions I take in the future.
I’ve always been a big animal lover, so working at the Humane Society of the United States—whose central aim is to make the country a safer, more humane place for animals to coexist with humans—was a natural fit. My day-to-day work consisted largely of drafting press releases and emails, researching and interfacing with reporters, tracking news coverage of the organization and writing tweets for the HSUS Public Relations Twitter account.
However, every single day in the office was different! There were always a bevy of miscellaneous projects I could help work on if I’d already completed my daily tasks, and across departments people were always happy to have help from an intern. There were also many dedicated intern events at the office, which served as opportunities both to learn more about the larger HSUS organization and to meet interns who worked in different fields or areas of the building. On multiple occasions, we didn’t even report to the office for work; instead, we got to travel around the D.C. area and participate in experimental food tastings (the future of college cafeterias is bright!) and professional development trainings.
One of the coolest things I did during my experience at the HSUS was participating in my first Animal Rescue Team mission. One rainy weekend, my coworkers and I traveled to a small airport in Virginia where we helped unload approximately 100 animals off a plane they’d been loaded onto in Mississippi, where they were rescued from a severe domestic cruelty situation. Helping the animals off the plane and then sending them off to their future shelter homes (and, hopefully, forever homes after that!) was such a gratifying experience and alone would have made the internship worthwhile.
Prior to my work with the Humane Society of the United States, I’d not had any hands-on experience with the nonprofit sector or its inner workings. My summer in Gaithersburg, though, demonstrated to me not only valuable professional skills but also the immensely commendable physical, mental and emotional effort that goes into working for a better world.