Signing off from Seaside Sustainability

Through my work with Seaside Sustainability this summer, I met a lot of my goals, but not in the ways I imagined. I wanted to learn about non-profit work, which I imagined doing through event planning and development work. Instead, I got an interesting look at how this organization itself ran during this time, especially their internship program. It was interesting to me how autonomous this was and how well they have their remote infrastructure set up with their use of Trello and G-Suite.

I was hoping to get a better idea of what type of environmental work specifically I would most enjoy doing in a non-profit. However, I found it difficult to clarify my career interests in this internship, in part because I didn’t have the chance to work with many professionals in the field, since at Seaside I was working almost entirely with other interns. However, a major thing I did clarify about my career interest this summer is the type of organization I would most like to work for in the future. In the beginning of the summer, I also interned with an organization called Envision Frederick County, which is an organization that works on civic engagement and not just environmental issues, but I got to help them with some environmental programming. One reason I really enjoyed that experience was because their mission really aligned with my passions and worldview with regards to social activism. On the other hand, Seaside, although they are an environmental organization and they do a lot of great work, doesn’t have the social justice focus I feel really strongly about. Therefore, I learned that in the future I should search for any organization that has a mission I feel passionately about and a strategy that makes sense to me and that might benefit from my expertise, even if it’s not an environmental organization. 

For other students interested in environmental work who are looking for an internship, I would also recommend broadening your search to outside of environmental organizations. Depending on what specifically you want to do, lots of different organizations can help you gain skills that you can use in environmental work in the future. As for advice for future Seaside Sustainability interns specifically, I’d say don’t be afraid to ask questions. That advice goes for anything, but especially at Seaside, there is not a lot of orientation or explanation before you are given responsibilities, so if you get confused, ask the project manager or your intern manager if you don’t know who to ask.

Even though this summer didn’t go as I imagined, I am proud of what I accomplished. I advocated for myself when I didn’t have enough work and wasn’t getting enough out of my first work assignments. I’m also proud of the blog posts I wrote. I really enjoyed this project because I got to write about what I find important. However, I did face challenges throughout the summer and it was at times hard to stay motivated through all the turbulence happening around the world. Therefore, I am most proud of the resilience and grit I demonstrated to myself by finding ways to learn and grow though the difficult circumstances.

Skillbuilding in a Virtual Internship

Before I knew that my internship was going to be virtual, I was looking forward to spending the summer in Gloucester. It’s somewhere I’ve never spent a lot of time and I was excited about being independent (I was planning on living alone in an AirBnB) and meeting new people. But I was also nervous about it. So when it was official that I would be staying home in California with my parents, I was disappointed to miss out on this opportunity to grow, but tried to stay positive by remembering that I’ll still have all the comforts of home this summer. I don’t have to worry about living alone or getting to know a new place, and I don’t have to cook myself dinner. I’ll have to look for growth in other ways! 

Working virtually has come with some challenges. The hardest thing about working virtually has been that I’m not in an office around co-workers, and it’s been hard to stay motivated in this work environment. I thought it would be more like school, since I mostly work independently on homework. However, this job doesn’t have many deadlines for work products, so I just have to get in my hours and try to finish my work as soon as I can. This is difficult when I’m at home alone. 

I also found that I didn’t have enough work to keep me busy with the two projects that my supervisor assigned me initially, so I asked to be put on another assignment. I will now be working on the marketing team as well. In this project, I am tasked with writing at least one blog post a week, which has been really helpful to have a specific assignment with a deadline, plus I can write more blog posts if I want and have extra time. The blogs will be published on the new Seaside Sustainability website which will be ready soon. I also will be helping another person with the monthly newsletter, which will be a great chance to work with other people. Here’s an example of last month’s newsletter.

This internship isn’t how I imagined, but I am meeting my goals in new ways and gaining skills I didn’t anticipate. I haven’t been able to work on events like I had hoped, but I am learning to be flexible and figure out how to make the most of the situation. One skill that I’ve been practicing that I didn’t expect is self-advocacy. In the first few weeks, I wasn’t getting what I needed from the first projects I was assigned. I spoke to my advisor about how I could do more work to help the organization and gain more of the skills I wanted. This practice of speaking up to negotiate better situations is an important skill anywhere, especially in future jobs.

Getting Oriented with Seaside Sustainability

On July 1st I started interning with Seaside Sustainability, a small environmental nonprofit based in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Their mission is to “passionately create sustainable oceans & communities by educating through action.” They accomplish this through work in environmental education, legislation, and technology. 

So far I’m working on two projects. The first is a data collection project that is a requirement for all Seaside interns. I am collecting contact information for teachers and administrators for every elementary, middle, and high school in the country, as well as information about their STEM programs. This will help Seaside expand the National Stem Honors Society program, which “is a chapter-based program that supports academic achievement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”

I’ve also been working on the sustainability calculator project. The final goal for the project is to produce a web page on which people can answer a quiz about their lifestyle and a calculator outputs their CO2 emissions, waste production, and water consumption. A similar calculator can be found on However, the footprintnetwork calculator only calculates your CO2 production, while the Seaside calculator will have additional measures. So far I’ve been helping to formulate questions and do research mostly for the water section of the project. I chose to work on this project because my academic goal for the summer is to improve and practice my analytical and research skills. 

I have only been working for a week and I hope to be able to work on additional projects soon. At Seaside Sustainability, interns are encouraged to take on new roles and projects throughout the program. This will be a great opportunity for me to adapt quickly and gain confidence in changing circumstances. A personal goal of mine for this summer is to become more comfortable in new roles and environments.

One of my career goals is to learn more about nonprofit management and organization, such as how nonprofits fund their work, organize internally, and engage their constituencies to accomplish their mission. I still want to get involved in more event planning, development, and fundraising, but so far I have gotten a look at some of the internal structure of the organization. Seaside uses Trello to organize work in the internship program, which is an online project management tool that allows people to work on projects in teams, and have lots of instructions available virtually. In addition, the projects are managed by interns. It seems the internship program is able to run pretty autonomously. Here’s a picture of my personal Trello board, which was all set up for me when I started my internship, and made my onboarding process quite independent.

I’m meeting with my internship manager for the second time tomorrow to discuss what other projects I could get involved with. I’m looking forward to seeing what I’ll be able to learn and accomplish this summer!