The Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs is quite the mouthful to say every time someone asked where I would be interning for the fall semester of 2013. I could have said ‘EEA,’ but I would have ended up having to explain what the acronym stands for anyway. The Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. I saved my first name tag that granted me access to the building. Mikayla Geraci, EEA, floor 9. I was under the impression that no internship would make me feel as important as my prior one at the Massachusetts State House, but I was wrong. Just saying what EEA stands for made me feel important.
I was unsure what to expect. There is always that classic image of an intern dressed professionally in some important office whose tasks merely include photocopying and making coffee runs. After day one, I knew this was certainly not the case. I was to work on tasks assigned on specific days until I could go no further or until I felt they were completed. Upon completion, I was expected to know how to busy myself with other work; work that was ongoing for the duration of my time. There was to be no lollygagging or constant questioning of what I should do next.
These may sound like severe conditions and that I would have been beheaded had I hinted at having any confusion as to what was going on. In retrospect, these conditions allowed me to become more confident more quickly. In a sense, I was in charge of myself as much as others were in charge of me. My independence allowed me to become self-organized and make my own to-do lists. When I had completed my first day (unfortunately with a cold), after sniffling and sneezing all over my own office space, I knew I was working with good people when the Assistant Press Secretary of EEA generously offered to bring me Sudafed or Benadryl the next time I was in the office. I also knew I was in good company when the External Affairs Coordinator, who sat nearest to me, blessed me, the complete stranger and obvious intern, after every sneeze.
My assignments at EEA ranged from updating contact lists using Excel to the more exciting blog posts I was able to write and publish on the Massachusetts Great Outdoors Blog. Yes me, not even a college graduate (yet) and already published! I was able to be creative with my writing style when writing posts about farmers’ markets or food festivals. I was able to exercise a more structured writing style when writing up interviews I conducted via email with Massachusetts Environmental Police Officers. I wrote an entire blog series about becoming an environmental police officer and what their specific duties entail. I used the skills learned in my college journalism classes when writing interviews about a businessman’s experience with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, as well as a write-up involving the Massachusetts Commissioner of the Department of Agricultural Resources. I actually ended up spending about 45 minutes on the phone with the Commissioner one day and it was one of the most enjoyable phone conversations of 2013.
My time as an intern at EEA exposed me to a lot of local and statewide information I would not have otherwise come across. I received every press release that was put out. I was also invited to attend a committee conference about climate change and what Massachusetts is up to with policy initiatives. For me specifically, my time at EEA was a perfect merger of my communication skills and my environmental interests. I was writing not only about the physical state of the environment, but giving insights as to how and why one can lead a more sustainable life. Healthy for you, healthy for the planet was a theme I took to heart. I am now aware of all the incredible things the state of Massachusetts is doing to help residents of the Commonwealth find their path to sustainability. Need to locate a farmers’ market or CSA near you? Well, the MassGrown map online is a tool that helps you to do that in addition to other things. I even found a way to pitch this type of thing on my school’s sustainability website, which I oversee. I felt really accomplished on Wednesdays in particular, where after I would leave the EEA I would walk a few blocks to the Government Center farmers’ market and purchase fresh local produce. Several weeks in a row I bounded home to immediately cook up a delicious veggie stew. Not only was I being exposed to information and writing about it, I was walking the walk: supporting farmers’ markets, eating locally, covering the windows in my apartment to be more energy-efficient for the winter… I myself was doing all of things that I was trying to encourage other people to do during my internship.
My experience at EEA had a very positive impact on me. My lifestyle was healthier and that wasn’t even a part of the intern description! I was able to challenge myself in a very professional setting two days a week and use my communication skills in a real-world setting. This got the wheels turning for thoughts about possible careers in the future. Opportunity is always lurking, and though I do not have a solid plan for my future, I know I am capable of waltzing into an Executive Office and rising to the occasion.
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