Summer internships pave the way for success

Saudi Arabian students in Washington D.C.

Linda Beckett chose to broaden her horizons as an intern by serving as an ambassador to youth from Saudi Arabia who were visiting Washington, D.C.

By Amy Loeffler

Many new graduates take their newly minted degrees far away from where they grew up, but not Rebekah Slabach.

Slabach, 22, graduated in May with a double major in agricultural sciences and applied economics management and returned home to Halifax County to use her academic training. Now, she is embarking on her career as an agriculture and natural resources agent with Virginia Cooperative Extension.

Slabach got a sneak peek into her future career with an internship about a year ago. She worked with several agents in a rotation that included agriculture and natural resources, forestry, and 4-H. Her activities varied greatly. On any given day she might have helped to deliver a calf, conduct a soil test, or teach kids about the importance of soil conservation.

“The internship showed me I could actually do this job,” she said. “Having the opportunity to go back home and work where I grew up is a fantastic way to give back to the area,” said Slabach.

Whether they return to their hometowns or venture farther afield, many students use internships as a way to morph their academic learning into career-building endeavors or use them as a springboard into a new job.

“One of the most interesting aspects of our internship program is that it exposes students to a career opportunity with Extension that they may not have considered on their own,” said Joe Hunnings, who coordinates Extension’s internship program. Others from the college who take advantage of internships — through Extension or otherwise — say the experience is invaluable.

Linda Beckett, 20, a senior from Frederick, Maryland, chose an internship that took her outside her comfort zone — culturally and agriculturally speaking.

Beckett, a dairy science and animal and poultry sciences double major, sought out internationally focused work with Legacy International and the Saudi Young Leadership Entrepreneurship Program.

“We work with lots of animals as ag majors, but we forget about the human aspect,” said Beckett. “Even though I am an ag major, it’s beneficial for me to do something on an international scale and interact with others, since at some point I want to go to graduate school, where communication skills will be helpful.”