Apr 24, 2019 Michael Mercier | UAH Today we're sharing Abigail Christopher’s story of coming to Huntsville, her love for the environment, and the importance of maintaining deep friendships as she grew deeper into the professional world. 1. Tell us your story of coming to and studying at UAH, what brought you here? The summer after I graduated, my father got a job in Huntsville, AL relocating our entire family. I knew I was going to go into engineering, so it was not only convenient, but preferred that I was able to go to UAH. When I toured, I noticed the small size of the school, and I fell in love. Being at UAH these last 4 years with the people I know and love has been really wonderful. 2. You have a lot of internship experience from reputable companies, from Turner Construction, to Energy Alabama, to now at UAH’s Office of Sustainability. What helped you get connected to so many great companies? Networking at events I was interested in helped me get these internships. I am passionate about the environment, and attended UAH’s Sustainability Gala one year, and got connected with professionals in the area relating to sustainability and energy. Being president of Green Club for a time meant working with the club advisor who enthusiastically introduced me to new people around the community. In addition, the UAH career fair helped me get my internship at Turner Construction, while offering to volunteer at Energy Alabama led me to working there. 3. What kinds of lessons did you learn from each one? Working at Energy Alabama, I learned how to work independently, at Turner I learned how to work in an office setting, how to communicate with multiple people on multiple projects, and what 40 hours a week really feels like. At the Sustainability office, I am currently learning that meeting in person is far more productive than emailing back and forth. 4. It can be hard leaving companies that you have developed relationships at. What are some of the challenges of working at new internships? Every company has their own set of unspoken rules. Each internship expects something different out of you. My first order of business was to figure that out best I can, and work the way my employer wants, not how I worked at my last job. Another challenge in a new internship is learning names, there is no shame in forgetting but it gets a bit awkward if you wait a few months to ask. 5. Internships are tremendous opportunities for growth and professional development, as I’m sure you know. What kinds of advice would you offer to students who may be on the fence on pursuing an internship or co-op? In my experience, there is a tremendous pressure put on getting an internship or co-op. My advice is to realize that getting an internship is not a measure of your worth or success. Turner construction was my only “true” internship, and I didn’t get that until my junior year of college, which was a year or two behind all of my peers. What I realized was any work experience (including part-time jobs and project-oriented clubs) was most valuable in showing my employer I want to work. Most importantly, if you put yourself out there and apply, chances are you will get an internship by the time you graduate. 6. For you personally, what area of your life have you seen the most growth from these different internships? In my own life, my friendships have grown deeper. When you are interning or co-oping you are no longer in on campus seeing your friends every day. This means the friendships you established need to either grow stronger or fade away. Because I invested more effort into seeing the people I care about, it made my relationship with them more meaningful. 7. What kinds of resources did you take advantage of in order to lock in all of these opportunities? Involvement played a key role in locking in internships. Volunteering for Energy Alabama led me to working there, and being involved with a [unrelated] construction project helped me secure my internship at Turner. Finally, being involved in UAH’s sustainability program through clubs helped me secure my current internship there. 8. For you, what is one of the best, hidden secrets on the campus at UAH that students probably do not know about? Well, as a senior in the Civil Engineering program, I just recently realized we have our own study room in tech hall. I spent a lot of time in the MAE study rooms before I realized it’s about 30 feet down the hall. 9. Any final thoughts/wisdom you would pass onto students that we haven’t covered? All engineering majors and companies are different- some hire freshmen/sophomores, while some only hire after your junior year. In addition, there might not be opportunities in Huntsville for internships, but working for a subcontractor or laborer may hold the same weight as an internship. Lastly, if you are passionate about something related to your field of study, do not keep that quiet! People want to see you succeed, and your passion makes others excited to give you new opportunities. We are so thankful for students like Abigail who pursue their passions in their careers. If you are passionate about something, find a way to incorporate it into your future career, just like Abigail. Keep checking back with us every Wednesday for more content from our team in Career Services.