English,  Reflections,  Summit,  Summit Learning Outcomes

Georgia Aquarium and Jobs

Yes, just Georgia Aquarium. It’s actually not the Georgia Aquarium– unless you’re just referring to it as the Aquarium.

This is one of the things I learned during my internship at Georgia Aquarium in the summer after my sophomore year. I was with Content Development, which is within the communications department, so I had to learn all of the important rules about how to communicate information about the Aquarium. The reason I had to do this was because I was writing content that was being published or posted by the Aquarium, for guests and sponsors and donors and staff.

Let me reiterate, because I still can’t believe this is true: I wrote things that are now on display at Georgia Aquarium.

There are signs for major exhibits that are on display at Georgia Aquarium– and I wrote them.

Prior to actually having this experience, I never would have guessed my english-creative writing major would lead me to Georgia Aquarium. If you had asked me in high school what kind of students had internships there, I would have guessed only STEM students, maybe Marketing, if I were stretching myself in brainstorming. In fact, the admissions counselors here at Agnes Scott like to use me as an example in presentations to prospective students about internship and career development, but I don’t say that to brag. I say that because it’s both incredibly affirming and strange to watch a room full of high schoolers get asked what major they think a student who had an internship at the Aquarium was and answer all manner of STEM majors– only to have the counselor presenting give a knowing smile and tell them it’s an English major, and she’s in the back of the room about to give a tour.

(This has happened, and more than once. It’s a strange occurrence every time.)

But I don’t mind it, because I learned about my career options from my internship in just a significant way. I found out about Georgia Aquarium internships from the Internship and Volunteer Fair, held by the Center for Career and Internship Development, in the fall of my sophomore year. I was more surprised than anyone to see that there were openings in the communications department– specifically, that there was a department just focused on writing content for the Aquarium.

What I found when I applied and went to my first interview– and subsequently, what I learned more about throughout the course of my internship– is something that my parents, all my past teachers and professors, and my advisor have all tried to get me to understand, but I couldn’t quite get it in a visceral sense until I experienced it. Here is what I learned:

The world needs communicators.

The world needs writers, speakers, readers, English majors. Being able to craft arguments, interpret information, write effectively for your audience, disseminate information in the best way, and figure out the best way to take complex or extensive information and communicate it in an accessible way is an essential skill to have in the workplace. It doesn’t matter what the company, nonprofit, institution, or department actually does; engineering, pottery, marine biology, advanced calculus research, insurance sales, publishing– every discipline in the world has need of people who can write.

My focus was on the writing, but my interest in and history with biology was only a help. My jobs covered a wide range of focuses, from writing inter-staff communication, to drafting educational materials to send to schools, to editing a floor show for children to be performed in the Aquarium. I wrote signage for exhibits, including the new Puffin Exhibit, and I researched the animals on display at the Aquarium and wrote (a lot of) fact sheets for the online Animal Guide, which guests can access in order to learn even more about animals they see on their visit. (I even took many of the pictures featured on these pages! I’m particularly proud of the Axilspot Wrasse and Pyramid Butterflyfish Pictures.)

The unifying factor in all of the work I did, however, was that my job was to work with my department to take extensive information– whether it be complex, scientific, detailed, or just significant– and find the best way to communicate that information to the target audience, usually the guests, in a way that was understandable, accessible, and effective. The fact that we were usually communicating information about fish was, in some ways, inconsequential to my internship: I was there to communicate.

It meant a lot to me to have this experience, and not just because of the amazing pictures I took, the many whale feedings I got to see, the topside (surface) access I had, the empty Aquarium I got to roam in the early morning, or the free admission I had for the summer (though all of those things were certainly incredible benefits, I must admit.) The reason this internship meant so much to me– beyond just having such a cool and wonderful professional experience– was for what I showed me about my opportunities. I knew, consciously, that I could do a lot with my English degree, if I wanted to. But there was something incredibly important about stepping into this internship, seeing the responsibilities I had, and finally learning firsthand that the only limitation I can really put on myself for opportunities after I graduate is if I assume I have limitations.

I learned a lot during my summer at the Aquarium. I learned the species of every fish on display in both the Tropical Diver and Ocean Voyager exhibit. I learned how to tell all four of the whale sharks apart (my favorite is the littlest, Yushaun, though I love them all.) I learned how to do CPR. (Thank you, Georgia Aquarium, for the certification class!) I learned about Sea Turtles, Marine Conservation, Coral Restoration, Aquaculture, Aquarium maintenance, Georgia’s freshwater environments, and the Indo-Pacific. I learned more about professional writing, company specific style guides, and sitefinity.

But I also learned about the possibilities for jobs I could have after college. I learned about how many places need people who can write. I learned about what it really means to communicate effectively through writing and speaking. I learned to practice and interpret creative expression. I learned more about interpreting quantitative information and the methods of inquiry appropriate for investigating the natural world. I learned that Agnes Scott really does have the right idea with this whole liberal arts education. And, of course, I learned a hell of a lot about fish.


Photo by Marianne Danneman, “Ocean Voyager”

Licensed for use under Creative Commons License CC BY NC-ND.

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