Student “grows” at summer internship

Rachel Read

Staff Writer


Getting a summer internship can take one far.

For JSU senior Willow Blanks, who is currently pursuing a degree in ecology, it took her all the way to Delaware.

“I worked as a horticulture intern for Winterthur Museum, Gardens, and Library,” Blanks said. “It being one of the largest naturalistic gardens in the country, I considered it a real honor to be chosen for the position.”

Though Blanks is not thinking of pursuing a career in public horticulture — she aspires to have a career as a naturalist or field botanist — she said the experience taught her invaluable knowledge about plant science and the Brandywine Valley region; she also received a prestigious memorial internship title for her excellence in her work during the summer.

Blanks got to spend her days managing different areas of the garden, working one-on-one with a horticulturist, unless, she said, it was a Thursday — “Our weekly field trip day,” which she said, in addition to already working on the scenic 998-acre estate of Winterthur, that, “the excursions they took us on were awesome!”

Blanks explained that she got to take VIP tours of other gardens around because of her affiliation with her Winterthur internship, as well as spending a weekend in Washington D.C. touring the Smithsonian, the U.S. Botanical Garden, Arlington Cemetery and Arboretum, Mount Vernon and River Farm.

In addition to garnering an impressive resume in the process, Blanks was also grateful for the friends and contacts she made that will be able to help her in years to come.

Another perk? Blanks received free room and board and was being paid more than any other entry-level position in Alabama could provide.

At the end of it all, Blanks said she had nothing but positive things to say about her experience with Winterthur. And in turn, Winterthur has praised her as being “a pleasure to work with,” and is known overall for having a positive attitude and an excellent work ethic.

As a student at JSU, Blanks has founded and presided over not only the Botanical Society, but is also the co-founder and vice president of another organization called Young Americans for Liberty.

What out-of-state summer internships do for students like Blanks, is not only help build an impressive résumé, which increases chances of employment after graduation, but they further establish personal and professional connections across the country.

Opening the door to a summer internship can also help students determine what they want to pursue as a career. And sometimes, like in the case for Willow Blanks, an internship serves as a means of sharpening another particular interest and skill set that may or may not be the specific career you are pursuing, but is nonetheless beneficial for a future career.

In other words, having a summer internship on one’s résumé can never hurt. It lets a future employer know that you have taken the time (an entire summer!) and initiative to learn how to do a job and have first-hand experience with someone who is in the business.

To all the ambitious students reading this, the experience gained from internships is certainly worthwhile, but you never know where it could take you, or the people you could meet.


Willow Blanks at the University of Pennsylvania’s Morris Arboretum fernery in Philadelphia, PA.

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Willow Blanks (far right) with the other Winterthur summer interns at Swarthmore College’s Scott Arboretum in Swarthmore, PA.

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Blanks and all the area interns helped restore the Wekinweir Arboretum and historic estate in East Nantmeal Township, PA, near Pottstown.


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