Volunteer Management Internship

I first saw the job posting for the volunteer management internship around January. I was immediately drawn to it. I mean, who wouldn’t want to work at the zoo? I decided to apply and see what would happen. About a month later to my surprise, I received a call from Kristine, the volunteer programs coordinator. She asked me some questions about myself, my goals and why I wanted to intern at the Zoo. To be completely honest, I was so nervous I can’t remember what I said. But she offered me the internship.

When I started the internship I was nervous and excited. My first day I walked around the zoo and completed a scavenger hunt. I hung out with Thomas the Red panda and Billy the Masai giraffe. It was a cool first day.

Throughout this internship I have been shadowing Kristine. I’ve learned how hard she works to organize group activities and all of the volunteers. She’s taught me all of the different aspects that come with her job. My favorite part about this internship is that every day is different and that I’ve had the chance to experience a little bit of everything.

I’ve learned how much work is put into the Zoo Crew and Zoo Friends volunteer programs, in addition to all of the group projects that Kristine organizes. I’ve also had the chance to supervise a couple different group enrichment projects. I’ve painted a cardboard giraffe, crafted paper chains for the orangutans, and helped groups create Paper Mache Easter eggs.

I’ve participated in two different interviews, one for Zoo Crew and the other for the Conservation Youth Team. This was a very interesting experience for me because I have always been the interviewee. I have to say that I was just as nervous (maybe more) to be the one asking the questions. It was a good learning opportunity for me to see what it was like on the other side of the hiring process.

Some other benefits to this internship are that I’ve been on a several tours of the zoo and I’ve been lucky enough to go to some behind the scenes spots like the animal programs building where all the reptiles and education animals are kept.

I feel like I’ve learned so much in my short time at the Virginia Zoo. In a few weeks my internship will end and I will be moving back to my hometown of Pittsburgh. I plan to take what I learned here and pursue a job, possibly at the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium. This internship has been such a great experience for me. I’ve gained a lot of useful knowledge for what it would be like to work at the zoo. I’m very grateful to Kristine and all the people that helped me throughout this internship.

Alexis Pampena