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If you haven’t ever thought about it (and until recently, I hadn’t) the word “intern” has an interesting etymology. From the French interner or “to confine within set limits,” the word has use as both a noun and transitive verb. However, the definition can very greatly depending on its grammatical use.
Intern (in-turn) - vb
1. ( tr ) to detain or confine (foreign or enemy citizens, ships, etc), especially during wartime - noun
2. chiefly ( US ) a student or recent graduate receiving practical training in a working environment
(Source: Collins World English Dictionary)
But in common parlance, especially among twenty-somethings an internships is often known as “the modern equivalent of slavery, except nowadays, people are actually willing.”
So where do we fall? Confinement, like on an enemy ship? Or practical training?
It’s easy to argue that internships at Hidden Villa provide practical training experience. Our interns find themselves with daily opportunities for increased responsibility, hands-on learning in the fields of agriculture or education (pun intended), and encouragement to use their day-to-day to build a strong base of skills, talents, and abilities. But it’s not uncommon as an intern in such a diverse workplace to discover passions and interests that aren’t a part of your department. What then? Commit to being confined by your job description? Admit you willingly agreed to only learn one thing?
No way. Our solution: Externships. Though they’ve had one name or another for many years, the current embodiment of individual projects, known as “externships,” are opportunities for interns to break from that detainment and choose their practical training beyond the position for which they applied. As an organization, we define externships as individualized projects aimed at increasing an intern’s set of marketable skills and/or contributing to their future career goals. Beyond that explanation, interns are given a good deal of free reign to identify, create, and pursue externships. Working with managers and other staff, they are asked to coordinate available time in their schedules and submit externship proposals that list not only their future career goals, but time lines for completion, expected time and material commitments for projects, and immediate benefits to themselves and the organization (a process that in and of itself is skill-building!).
But enough with the professional jargon; what have interns done for externships so far? In addition to the creation of that previous link - a Facebook group for former and current interns to stay connected and share experiences - interns have: pursued training in astronomy education, built native pollinator gardens, mentored middle school youth one-on-one, created original curriculum in support of graduate degrees, written focus programs for HV summer camp, grown native plants from collected seed for sale to local schools, built chicken tractors from all recycled materials, helped high school youth mentor younger children in educational gardens, learned grantwriting skills, built movable animal shelters….the list goes on.
The point I’m trying to make is that in becoming an intern at Hidden Villa, young people aren't just entering into indentured servitude, however willingly. Quite the opposite. They are putting themselves in a place to not only deeply examine what they are passionate about, but to take that discovery and turn it in to a tangible result. Stay tuned for future posts where interns may write in person about current externships.