UIndy junior Megan Juchcinski, a social work and psychology major, loves children and animals, so she knew that a summer internship at Sea World’s Adventure Camp in San Antonio, Texas, would be perfect for her. But there are only three such camps in the United States (the others are in Florida and San Diego). And 250 people had applied to work in the San Antonio location last summer.
Megan snagged the job.
“The other 10 counselors at the camp were from Texas and most were studying in animal-related fields such as biology or zoology,” Megan says. “But I think it was my volunteer and psychology background that really helped me get the job. They wanted someone who was interested in working with the children at the camp, rather than just working with the animals.”
Facing fearsome creatures (& animals, too)
Although Megan was trained to give informative talks about the various animals, her primary job as a camp counselor included taking the kids around the park, teaching them about animals, and participating in evening activities with them, among other typical childcare tasks.
“I worked primarily in the expedition camp, which included mostly middle school students ages 9 to 13,” she says. “There were about 30 campers per week for 10 weeks.” The campers didn’t always make it easy for Megan, of course. “We had to deal with bullying between campers and become the mediator between them sometimes. There were also a few weeks when we worked with campers with disabilities, so it was really important to be patient with them, but also stern if they got too rowdy.”
Megan credits her work at UIndy for preparing her for her summer Sea World internship. “I’ve helped with College Mentors for Kids and volunteered at Laurelwood,” Megan says, “so I was used to working with children.” (College Mentors is a program that brings elementary school kids from low-income families to campus for tutoring; Laurelwood is an Indianapolis Housing Agency community.) Megan felt that her psychology background was helpful when it came to managing her relationships with her coworkers. “We spent a significant amount of time together, so it was important to know when we needed to act like coworkers and when it was appropriate to just be friends.
Tubing in Texas
“Outside of the camp setting, we had a lot of fun together, taking trips to the River Walk in downtown San Antonio, visiting the Alamo, and partaking in a common summer activity in Texas—floating down the rivers on tubes.” Although her stint in Texas is over, there’s a lot that Megan has taken away from the internship, she says. “I learned so much about the business side of working with people. I was able to put what I’ve learned regarding ethics into practice by keeping good records and practicing confidentiality with the campers.”
Megan will work with the Jobs for America’s Graduates program for her practicum this spring. She’s trying to get a wide range of experience so that, one day, she can work with children and families, preferably in a clinical setting. She hasn’t forgotten the great time she had at Sea World, though—and would love to go back and do another summer internship.