personal growth

Reflecting on an Extension Internship

By Kelly Finn

UConn student Kelly Finn, who interned with Extension, stands in front of the Central Bank in Senegal while there as a Boren Scholar.
Kelly Finn in front of the central bank in Senegal.

Coming out of my 2017 marketing internship with UConn Extension, I possessed a newfound quality of discipline and relationship-building that I had honed over the three month experience with Stacey Stearns. Almost two years later, I have been able to employ such skills in my current experience as a Boren Scholar in which I am a student, professional, and volunteer.

Last April, I was nationally selected as one of 250 from a pool of over 1500 applicants to receive the US Government Boren Scholarship: a fellowship that enables qualified students to engage in intensive study-abroad. I am now nearing the end of my year long experience with the Boren, having gotten the opportunity to do a domestic summer program at the University of Florida before going abroad, and of course my nine-month experience abroad in Senegal, which will be coming to end an end this May.

The Boren has been heavily academic, including critical study of international relations, advanced language in both French and Wolof (a native West African language), amplified by my own personal choice to enroll in online American classes to keep up with credit requirements in completing my triple-degree venture in receiving Finance, Resource Economics, and French Honors degrees at the end of my UConn experience. While it has not been easy, I’ve found that my discipline in being goal-oriented and determined has encouraged me to get my work done efficiently while embracing new learning content, just as I had as an Extension intern.

On top of academics, I have further challenged myself to upkeep my professional development in maintaining contact with my career aspirations and experience by leveraging my relationship-building skills in internship pursuits.

I knew at the start of my Boren that I wanted to get involved in a professional capacity in addition to my studies during the program. After countless hours of research in organizations and opportunities in Senegal, I made sure to leverage networking platforms and use relationship-building skills to secure an internship. Not only was I accepted for a professional internship at the headquarters of the Central Bank of West African States in Dakar, but I also became a volunteer intern at the Senegalese office of an American organization that I had been involved with as a high school student in the States.

Thinking back to my days as an Extension intern, I remember how important taking initiative and applying relationship-building skills were. At Extension, all of the projects necessitated cross-departmental communication, and strength in relationship-building to move ideas forward and make tangible progress. Those same skills have evidently assisted me in the process of finding awesome, relevant involvements internationally that has ultimately enriched my Boren experience in Senegal.

Going forward, I will continue to apply what I’ve learned as an UConn Extension intern to my everyday life in academic and professional areas and beyond as I have as a Boren scholar. Extension equipped me with the tools and incredible support by the staff and CAHNR to work effectively to make change while also cultivating a learning environment I clearly profited from. The discipline and relationship-building skills I had gained in the process continue to be put to great use in all the new and challenging experiences I encounter as I continue to grow.

Garret Basiel: From 4-H Project to College Essay

Garret Basiel was a 4-H member in Middlesex County and is a freshman at UConn this fall in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment. This is the college essay he submitted with his application.

Garret helping a younger 4-H member
Garret works with a younger 4-H member at the Middlesex-New Haven 4-H Fair. Photo: Kara Bonsack

My fingers felt raw, but I once again pulled back the bowstring and aimed down range at the target. After my quick lesson on safety and proper form, I spent at least four hours at the archery range that day in 2010 during my local 4-H fair. The arrows skewed across both the target and ground alike, but every time one hit anywhere near the center of the target, I was delighted. This single positive experience led me to learn not only about fletchings and points but about myself too.

As a novice 4-H club member, I made a very small contribution on the range when we brought our equipment out to local fairs. After hauling out the targets and setting up a safety line, I might chip in information on a shooter’s form every once in a while, telling them to “straighten your feet” or “keep pulling back,” but I still lacked the confidence to address the masses that poured through our setup. Despite these crowds, I managed to find time to shoot for myself. I would launch as many arrows as I could, reducing me to sore set of fingers and a pair of tired arms trembling, just as they were my first time there. A year rolled past and, thanks to my club leaders, I was able to consistently nail the bull’s eye.

Yet as my skill increased, my confidence and courage did too, and I came to discover how much I enjoyed assisting others. By the 2014 4-H Fair I felt ready to impart my knowledge onto others. For the first time I was able to walk someone through all of the steps of an archer. I would always begin by strapping an arm guard on them and showing them how to position their feet. Then I would go on to explain how to hold the bow, nock an arrow, and pull back the string. What surprised me was adults’ willingness to learn. Although towering over me, they politely listened while I taught them what to do, letting me know that my voice mattered. I shared their excitement as their skill progressed having heard “Look what I just shot!” and taking part in high fives more than a few times. My shyness was clearly on the way out.

As I matured and gained more experience over the years, I was able to fulfill assorted jobs on the fair ranges. Older club members, who used to help people put on their arm guards or teach them how to shoot, aged out, leaving me with more responsibility. I felt comfortable walking adults and teenagers through the process, but my hardest challenge was helping young children, who struggle to listen to instructions and even to pull back the bow string. I still remember the first girl who I knelt next to. I helped her straighten her arm and adjust her feet before I helped her tug back the bowstring. I urged her “Keep pulling, you’re almost there” as I had heard my club leader say so many times before. We both smiled when her arrows hit the target. Each year I have helped at the archery range I have become more dependable. Now I even run the range, not only teaching but announcing “Begin shooting” or “Go get your arrows” whenever my leader is busy.

I am very grateful that teaching archery helped me come out of my shell. Addressing the groups of people coming through our archery range gave me new found courage that has carried over into my other parts of my life. I now take on leadership roles in class, finding myself leading groups through trigonometry projects, and at cross country meets I feel more comfortable conversing with other runners. I feel ready to bring this same confidence over to my upcoming college years.