Intern Insights

About This Blog

There are many different ways to intern at Rocky Mountain National Park, and all offer unique National Park Service experiences. Get the inside scoop of what it's like to be an intern, as different interns share their own insights, memories, and experiences in this blog.

Origin of Marmot Camera

July 30, 2016 Posted by: Maggie Noriega

Origin of Marmot Camera


Reflections on a Season at Rocky by Adam Auerbach

This summer and fall I have had the privilege of serving as one of Rocky’s interpretation interns. Fresh out of completing my undergraduate degree, I headed out to Colorado for an adventure in the mountains. Duties at Rocky throughout my June-October season have varied. Our first two weeks were our training period, in which we were exposed to the latest guidelines in interpretive techniques from the National Park Service and got a whirlwind introduction to the park. At the end of the training period, it was time for all the new seasonal staff to research for and write our own unique programs for the summer. As an intern I gave four summer programs, a bear talk, a bighorn sheep talk, a discovery hike for families, and a Jr. Ranger program for kids. The very first week out of training (and after lots of practice) I gave all four of my new programs to park visitors. Presenting to park visitors involves some nerves the first couple weeks, but quickly becomes comfortable.

Beyond giving interpretive programs, other duties in the summer included staffing the three visitors centers on the east side of the park to answer visitor questions, provide basic orientation to the park, and offer suggestions for hiking trails and scenic drives. Throughout the summer, interns also staff the Sheep Lakes Information Station, an area where bighorn sheep descend into a meadow to access a series of mineral licks. In addition to giving the bighorn sheep talk there, we also help stop traffic if the sheep want to cross the road, and educate visitors about the sheep and answer questions. Similarly, interns staff the Jr. Ranger Headquarters at Hidden Valley throughout the summer, where we give our Jr. Ranger programs, hang out with kids, and help them complete their Jr. Ranger activities. Lastly, a major perk of the job is two or three half day rove shifts per week. When out on rove, we get to simply go out and hike in the park. This familiarizes us with the trails and lets us make visitor contacts with any park guests who might have questions, need directions, or require any other sort of assistance.

As summer turns to fall, intern duties shift a little bit. Jr. Ranger programs conclude as children head back to school, and bighorn sheep talks make way for elk talks. In the fall, the elk have their rut, or mating season, and interns give an elk talk. Personally, for the fall season I kept my bear program from the summer, and wrote two new programs, one for elk and the other for a nature walk. The elk shifts are particularly different than summer duties. On elk shifts, we start around noon and work until around 8 or 9pm, as the elk do not come out and begin their rut activities until the evenings typically. During these shifts, interns give their elk programs and work with a team of volunteers called the Elk Bugle Corps to help make sure park visitors are giving the elk enough space, to keep guests parked in legal spaces, and to educate visitors about the elk rut. The elk and the changing colors make the fall a truly magical time at Rocky.

That about covers the job duties for an intern, but what happens in your off time? Interns are provided free park housing. Personally I was stationed in the Llama house with another interpretation intern and one of the environmental education interns. The llama house gets its name based on its location across a dirt road from the Park Service llama pen. Don’t expect lots of luxury, but there is running water and electricity, and it’s plenty comfortable. The llama house is also only a short walk to McLaren Hall, where interns generally report to work. Hiking opportunities are endless on days off, and Boulder and Fort Collins are only an hour away for those with a taste for the city. Interns and seasonal staff hang out from time to time either in the park housing area or in the town of Estes Park right outside the park border.

A season as an intern at Rocky is not without challenge (we get over 4 million visitors a year!), however it is an incredibly rewarding experience in one of the most beautiful places in the country. Moreover, interns learn tons of great interpretive skills and gain exposure to the National Park Service as an agency. The opportunity to work at Rocky is once in a lifetime, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.


You have quite the job by Bo Chon

I heard that statement at least a dozen times from visitors. And my reply is rather consistent: why yes I do.

My name is Bo and I had the opportunity to work as the interpretive intern for Rocky Mountain National Park during the 2016 fall season. As a recent college graduate from UNC- Chapel Hill, I was more than excited to pack my bags and head over to the legendary American West. I admit that I was nervous about this internship considering my background in Economics and Global Studies and how new everything would be. But these past 10 weeks have given me a series of invaluable lessons about how to make the most of an experience like this.

Lesson 1: Sometimes, you might stand out.

I’ll start out honest. On my first day of work, I was quite discouraged. Being from Washington D.C. allowed me to grow up in many different communities of color and as a Korean-American female, I instantly recognized the lack of diversity here in Rocky Mountain National Park where there was just no color among the staff, volunteers, and visitors. Frankly, I felt like I stood out.

This personal experience compelled me to learn more about diversity in the parks. Through conversations with fellow rangers and supportive supervisors, I realized that standing out shouldn’t force me to shut doors but open them. After researching more about diversity initiatives in the park and the National Parks Service, I was inspired to incorporate the topic of diversity in the parks into my programs and spark dialogue with staff and visitors. I realized the potential of standing out and embracing it – it’s not necessarily a bad thing. More importantly, challenging diversity and creating a more inclusive space in the parks is a theme that contributed to the positive experience of my internship.

Lesson 2: You are surrounded by good.

I always wish there was a word to describe that first sigh you have when you finish a hike – from glacier blue alpine lakes to summits of towering mountains, the first sigh at the end of the hike encapsulates both a breath of relief and wonder. As an intern in Rocky Mountain National Park, I was immersed in this natural goodness on daily basis living in the park, spending weekends hiking, and roving the trails meeting visitors from all over the world.

But beyond the goodness behind the natural landscape, it is the people that I worked with that defined this lesson: I am truly surrounded my good. Daily, I worked with volunteers who donate thousands of hours to this park and undeniably serve as the park’s spine. But the interpretive team I was a part of relayed support in every sphere possible: from trainings and general knowledge about the park to discussing topics like diversity.

Lesson 3: It’s okay to not know it all.

When I first started training, I assumed everyone had a background in an environment related field. With my education rooted in liberal arts, I was worried that my knowledge would be insufficient to do well. During training, my brain was consumed in a crash course of all things Rocky Mountain and I was overwhelmed that I would have to know it all.

Throughout my time here, I learned about trees, ecosystems, and animals that I never knew about before. Yet I realized that there is no way to know it all. I would receive questions every now and them that I didn’t know the answer to, but I realized that those were opportunities to learn more and seek answers. It’s okay to not know it all because it gave me a chance to seek answers and realize that we are always students, sometimes the teacher.

Lesson 4: Take it easy and take it in.

Coming from Washington D.C., I was so used to the Type-A, get it done attitude. But the work culture here is one that taught me about patience and flexibility: programs don’t go exactly as planned, visitors will surprise you with questions, and there’s always a new situation to handle. As an intern, my responsibilities included working at multiple visitor centers, leading 3 ranger programs and supporting the volunteers during the Elk Rut. With these responsibilities, each day was different and couldn’t be identified on a neat, perfect schedule, I had to take it easy and take it in.

Overall, this internship was not defined by standing at the copy machine, taking apart staples, and fetching coffee orders for over 20 staff members. It is characterized by inclusivity and embracing interns to immediately become a part of the team. It is ultimately one that challenges me to continuously learn more. Why yes, it is indeed quite the job.

Last updated: May 17, 2018

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