The 4-H Way
As my internship comes to an end, I will take some time to reflect upon my experiences. The three main lessons that came out of my time at Cornell Cooperative Extension are to be a team player, the importance of taking initiative, and knowing how to be flexible. These characteristics encapsulate my internship experience. I can see how much I have grown over these nine weeks in my understanding of these skills.
The Cornell Cooperative Extension internship program was a great way for me to reach out to my local community. Working with the teens in the 4-H program taught me how to be a team player by working alongside the teens I was responsible for rather than just supervising them. I quickly learned how being a team player rather than just the coach creates a more comfortable working environment. I also developed this skill by doing things that were outside of my comfort zone. I can recall one day where I was helping some of the kids in the animal science day camp take their animals out to practice showing them. I was not used to being around animals myself, and being responsible for both the kids and the animals made me very nervous. Then, one of the kids said, “come on you have to face your fears.” Then I figured, she was right. I did need to face my fears. So, then I started to feel more comfortable with the animals, and I began to pet them, all because a seven-year-old told me I should face my fears.
I also learned the importance of taking initiative. When there were low points during the work day and I did not have a lot to work on in my project, I would ask around the office to see if I could help out with anything else going on. Not only did this take some pressure off of the other staff members, but in return I was able to learn something outside of what my focus was. I found something to do at all times in order to make my internship experience worthwhile. I learned that there is always something to do, you just have to go out and find it.
The final and probably most important lesson I learned was how to be flexible. There were many times where things would not go according to plan or schedule, and I had to learn how to adjust accordingly. No matter how much I plan, things will not always go smoothly, but learning to roll with the punches, so to say, is one of the real-life skills that I could not have been able to develop in quite the same way in a classroom setting. My first-hand experience is what I think is the greatest take-away of my internship experience, being able to be hands-on in a professional work environment and learning the things that I simply cannot learn from taking a class or a training session. In the office, we have something that we call “the 4-H way”, a multifaceted term that means you learn as you go, you do things outside of your job description, and you adjust your plan to always meet the needs of the people that you help along the way. The 4-H way is a strategy that has left a lasting impression on my view of working in a non-profit organization. All in all, I am very grateful for the time I spent at Cornell Cooperative Extension, and I look forward to what else this organization will contribute to the Canton community.