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It is hard to sum up months’ worth of experience of my internship in Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Environmental Health, Food Safety and Sanitation program (ADEC/EH/FSS), Anchorage, Alaska in few paragraphs. However I would like to start by thanking National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) for giving a wonderful opportunity of interning with Alaska Department of Conservation and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for funding this internship.
There has always been a general perception in people’s mind regarding Alaska that it a snow covered plains where Eskimos live in the igloos, fishing and wondering the nature. In contrast, for me it is whole different perspective. Alaska is far more than just being covered with snow, it is indescribably scenic. Getting involved in lots off adventurous things like hiking, kayaking, cruising, fishing, getting close to the wildlife, camping, in Alaska, the mesmerizing and alluring beauty is worth praising. Being an international student from a developing country, where one finds difficulty in getting opportunities, getting this internship will always be rewarding to me. This internship has given me lot more than I had expected it to be. It has provided me with the opportunity to get involved in meaningful projects, learn new skills and understand workplace policies, norms and expectations which has helped me to expand my knowledge and explore my areas of interests.
Like any other interns, I too have the similar stories of working with the professionals in their respective fields, getting to interact with people and learning new things every day. There has been slight difficulty in getting adjusted to the new environment and especially when you are from different part of the world. However, my supervisor and other personnel were friendly, cooperative and their constructive criticism were beneficial to me. There were times when I felt like an outsider but this particular situation has taught me to avoid negativities in life as it is just a misuse of our own imagination and once we replace the negative thoughts with positive ones, we end up having a positive results. These ten weeks of internship was one kind of a joyous learning process. I simply admire ADEC Food Safety and Sanitation Program for having me as their intern and molding me personally and professionally.
ADEC/FSS works for protecting public health at regulated food, seafood and public facilities. During my work period, I accompanied EH officers on several inspections. I went on inspection in food establishments, Seafood and shellfish processors and tattoo parlors for reviewing permit requirements and evaluating sanitary practices in the facility. These inspections were very informational to me as I learned about inspection procedures and food code violations by different facilities. I had an opportunity to fly on a float plane to Prince William Sound, one of the Alaska’s majestic beauties, for shellfish inspection and water sampling. That was my first ever experience of flying on a small plane and trust me it’s worth every bit of adrenaline rush. Flying high above the mountains and ocean, observing the breathtaking view, a boat ride to the oyster farms, getting to know about shellfish farming and interacting with the local shellfish farmers regarding sanitary practices summarizes a day long trip. I also visited the Department of Health and Social Services, Section of Epidemiology and learned how to report a food borne illness and how food borne outbreak surveys and surveillances are carried out. My visit to Environmental Health Lab and Public Health Lab were also interesting, as got to see how these labs work constantly in getting accurate results by various analytical and technical procedures. I had session with the ADEC/EH Division of Water, that ensures safe drinking water to the public and regulates discharges from industries, construction areas, cruises and ferries to waters and wetlands. It was also good to know that this division provides financial assistance in remote areas for proper water and wastewater facility.
I was also assigned to prepare a fact sheet for food donation that includes requirements for proper handling, preparing and storing of foods to be donated. As a main project I created a webpage for the farmers market. This webpage is a one stop shop for the farmers containing all the processes and requirements to be able to sell their products in the market and the procedures for handling and processing of foods safely. Food safety has evolved as a significant global issue with public health and as I had keen interest in food safety, this internship in ADEC Food Safety and Sanitation Program has helped strengthen my knowledge of responsibility, focus and ambition.
As I look back on all I have learned, I realize what a wonderful experience this has been. Working hands on in a professional environment has not only acted as a building block to my career, also helped to boost my confidence level. The experiences of full work days and all their bumps and turns is something that a classroom lectures and tests can never replicate. Internships can be intimidating when we take it as a requirement, but thinking it as a stepping stone for opportunity helps in examining our interests deeply so that we can be confident in all our abilities. I have learned both tangibles like technical aspects of work and intangibles like work ethics and standards required for the work. My biggest takeaway would be relationships and lots of beautiful memories forged through this internship which I will cherish forever.
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