by Lindsay Kerr
When I interviewed for an internship at 19, I never would have believed where it would take me or the connections I would make.
Looking back almost eight years, the only questions I remember my interviewer asking me were, what my career goals were, and what assistive technology skills I had. As a bonus I told him that I lived in the large city I would be possibly interning in, therefore I knew the transportation system well. Little did I know I would still be working with this team of wonderful people eight years later, although in a different capacity.
A month after this interview I was given the opportunity to intern in the Disabled Students Services (DSS) office, now known as the Bob Murphy Access Center (BMAC), at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). While interning in CSULB’s DSS office I mastered typical intern tasks: answering phones, shredding documents, and helping with research. I also got to network with the team that would help me reach my goal of getting my Bachelor’s degree, the team that would one day become the team I would be a part of.
Benefits of My Internship
Although I was only an intern for a month and I felt like I only worked on basic intern tasks, I know I made an impact on not only my intern supervisors but the whole office staff. I say this because one of the people I worked with closely told me that they were going to find a way to hire me once I transferred to CSULB from my local community college. I found it difficult to believe initially, but a year later, when I was asked by my local community college to speak on a panel for the California Association for Postsecondary Education and Disability (CAPED), the comment was repeated.
You see, after I finished speaking on the panel, the director of DSS came to speak to my dad and me. All I remember the director telling my dad was “I am going to hire your daughter.” As my dad and I were driving home from this panel discussion, I remember my dad saying something along the lines of “I have never heard of a possible employer seeking out an employee the way this director has, but we will see if this really happens.” Little did we know the statement made by this director would come true a year and a half later.
As my whole family was settling into a new home, I got a message from someone that I knew who worked at CSULB asking me to reach out to my now-boss because she wanted to talk to me. I jumped on this opportunity and sent her an email. A short hour later I got an email back saying that the person in my current position was going to be leaving the university shortly to take another opportunity, and she asked if I would come to fill this position. I wanted to jump at this opportunity, but I also knew that I was not looking at transferring to CSULB until the next fall at the earliest. As a result of not looking at transferring to CSULB until the next fall, I was really unsure how I would complete my last math, bio, and bio lab courses before transferring, while also starting a new job. Thankfully it worked out in my favor that I was able to work three days a week at CSULB, while going to school two days a week.
This was not the way in which I imagined that I would start an opportunity like this, but looking back I am grateful to have started it this way because it has helped me to face the challenges of today.
After the challenging semester of taking bio, bio lab, and math, I transferred to CSULB where I continued to work part-time, while also completing my Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies. I would be lying if I said that the transition from a community college to a four-year university, while also working, was easy; it was not. It took me about a year and a half to realize what I would have to do in order to complete all coursework successfully, while also working part-time. This most definitely would not have been able to be achieved without the support of my coworkers. If it was not for my coworkers and I ensuring that my course materials were accessible I would not have completed my Bachelor’s degree in Summer 2021. I add myself into the equation of making sure that my coursework was accessible because as part of my job at CSULB I check documents and other content for accessibility.
Now that I have my Bachelor’s degree I plan to continue working with this team of wonderful people for the short term, but my long-term goal is to teach students with visual impairments. I have taken a significant step towards my goal this semester by enrolling in San Francisco State’s Master of Arts in Special Education and Credential program in the area of Visual Impairment. Had I not had the experience of going to school some days at my community college, while working part-time the other days at CSULB, I do not think I would be as prepared to face the challenges of today. Today’s challenges are different from yesterdays, but I know had I not faced them I would not be prepared for the 12 plus hour school days I experience now working part-time, while studying and taking three-hour lectures on Zoom.
If anyone is considering the option of interning before starting their long-term career goals, I highly recommend it. You may not have the same experience I have had, but building a network of professionals in your given field is more valuable than you know. Who knows, someone could be working on a project or building a position and need your particular expertise.
Learn more about virtual work experiences for blind and low vision youth. Sign up for “Can’t Touch This” Virtual Transition Programming for Students with Visual Impairments on Jan 26, 2022 03:00 PM ET. Register HERE.