Taking a chance on an
internship 1,200 miles away resulted in an unforgettable experience, a job
offer and a new outlook on life.
“I wanted to try something
completely different,” said Colton Schaardt, a Southeast Community College
student who recently finished a 10-week internship in Washington, D.C. “There’s
nothing wrong with staying here and doing an internship in Nebraska, but I
wanted to get out of my comfort zone, and I’m glad I did.”
Schaardt, from Table Rock,
worked as a staff assistant for Nebraska Congressman Adrian Smith this past
summer. He attended legislative briefings and learned a lot about what it’s
like behind the scenes of government and public policy.
“It was very overwhelming,”
Schaardt said about his time in our nation’s capital.
Schaardt had to upgrade his
wardrobe since he wore a suit every day. He lived with other Washington interns
near the Supreme Court and walked to work every day. He enjoyed taking in the
sights of the city and meeting new people from all over the country.
“I had roommates from
Oklahoma, Texas and North Carolina,” he said. “I still keep in touch with them
and even took my roommate from Oklahoma to the Oregon-Nebraska football game.”
Schaardt spent two years at
SCC in the Agriculture Business & Management Technology program in
Beatrice. Initially he had an interest in working with animals, but after his
internship he changed his mind and hopes to work in public service. And he
wants to do it closer to home.
“I realized that I love the
aspect of public service,” he said, “ but I realized in 10 weeks how
disconnected you can get (in D.C.).”
Schaardt said he was offered
a full-time job with Congressman Smith’s office. Although he was very flattered
by the offer, he had to turn it down because he wants to go back to school and
finish his undergraduate degree.
“I wasn’t expecting that,”
Schaardt said about the job offer. “You look at all the people who work out
there and for them to offer ME a job with only two years of education was
Amanda Fairley is one of the
instructors in the Agriculture program at SCC, and she also helps arrange
internships for students. She says students have held internships in
California, Georgia, Indiana, and New York, among other places.
“Most of the students stay in
Nebraska, but we encourage them to go out of state, too,” she said. “That way
they can learn new things and come back here with them.”
Fairley herself is originally
from Delaware. She ended up in Nebraska by taking a chance, and that’s why she
encourages her students to do the same. She says typically the students will
complete their internships during their last quarter at SCC, so they’re ready
for the workforce when they graduate.
“It’s real-life experience,”
she said. “Our students learn a lot of people skills, what it’s like to work
for a boss other than dad. When they apply for a full-time position, they can
say they have this experience.”
Most of the time they don’t
have to, Fairley added, because most of them get job offers from the business in
which they interned. Employers like SCC students because of the hands-on
experience they receive at the college, Fairley says.
“We also get a lot of
students who transfer here from other colleges because it wasn’t as hands-on as
it is here,” she said.
Schaardt plans to transfer to the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln to study Agriculture Economics and Public Policy. He is
thankful for his time at SCC.
“It was definitely a good
experience, I’m glad I started here,” he said. “I probably learned more about
myself here than if I went somewhere else. It’s more of a family feel here.”
Fairley says the internship
program continues to grow at SCC. Currently they are considering sending
interns abroad, possibly Brazil and Argentina, to study seed corn production.
Schaardt advises students to keep an open mind when selecting an internship.
“Just because it’s a scary
thought doesn’t mean it’s not going to be an awesome reality,” he said. “I went
1,200 miles away from home. It was 10 weeks, and I had nothing to lose.”