It all started a few years ago when I decided to attend a Career Fair for students in the College of Agriculture at Penn State. My goal was to make some connections and explore what opportunities were available after graduating from college. At this time I realized I was lacking in physical, hands-on experience in the landscape field. It was odd; I was working to complete a degree in Landscape Contracting, having never worked in the field. That was when I knew I needed to get to work; I needed to participate in an internship program.
My first choice was to intern with a company that would place me in a rotational internship situation. Since I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do I figured this would be the best way to experience the many facets of landscape contracting. I was selected for a summer internship with Chapel Valley Landscape Company, a full-service landscape contractor in the Baltimore-Washington-Northern Virginia corridor. The internship was a 12-week program enabling me to gain a real-world perspective of commercial installation, maintenance, and irrigation, as well as corporate support functions.
My internship experience enabled me to learn a lot about myself, such as I prefer commercial work over residential and installation over maintenance. I determined that estimating wasn’t right for me, marketing made sense, and that I could navigate roads larger than two lanes (I’m originally from a small town). I was able to spend time working in the shop learning how to change oil and rotate tires. I worked on green roofs and large estates. I helped fix broken irrigation systems and install new ones. I helped lay down hardscapes and layout designs. My plant identification skills expanded with each job I worked and my Spanish skills were growing every day. My internship helped me narrow down my interests and hone in on what I enjoyed and what I was good at.
Internships are one of the best ways to help a student grow. They provide hands-on training for the real world, working on real jobs. Interning with Chapel Valley gave me a chance to figure out what I wanted to do after college. I was able to define my strengths and become more familiar and confident in the landscape field.
Now is the prime time to explore internship programs, don’t let this opportunity pass you by, take advantage of the summer, and see what is out there for you.
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