April 16, 2018
For the past 13 weeks, I served as a part-time intern through the American Conservation Experience at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. I am a journalism student in my third year at San Francisco State University, and my internship focused on supporting the park’s interpretation and digital media efforts. During my first days, wrapped in the blanket of ocean breeze, I felt a sudden shift in my mind, as if I knew what I was getting into was going to be challenging, yet sophisticated. The first week at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park really put a spotlight on official government business, but a suit and tie isn’t the norm when you’re trying to preserve history, nature, and the life that lives in it. There was an abundance of paperwork, but I quickly learned that it’s not everything this kind of work demands. Once I finished training and the onboarding process, I explored the ships and the stories they tell when you first step onto the ocean-soaked decks. I particularly enjoyed how the smell of the ocean salt commands your nostrils to smell the history within the hull of the boat.
My supervisor asked me to read all the interpretive and wayfinding signs around the park and gather feedback; that was the first time that I was able to venture out on my own at Hyde Street Pier and begin to formulate my own interpretation of the park. I began to notice how the waves slowly demand the attention of the boats as well as myself. The ocean invigorates the mind of the human body and allows you to tap into a certain aspect of your intuition that lets you know that things will be okay. I also attended ranger-led tours of the ferryboat Eureka, and the lumber schooner C. A. Thayer, which helped me gain insight into what life was like for commuters and sailors a century ago.
As I continued my internship, I was assigned projects that included researching content for social media in the Maritime Research Center, which I had heard so much about, as well as creating a “Then & Now” slideshow using historic and contemporary photos of the same locations around the park. At first I didn’t realize that I would end up presenting the slideshow to the ranger team, but I knew that this project was something my supervisor wanted me to immerse myself in. The presentation for the “Then & Now” project turned out a lot better than I thought, and the rangers were receptive to the slideshow. Being able to impress them and my supervisors helped me build confidence in myself and allowed me to project more of my personality through my work.
Through the mentoring and variety of assignments, I learned so much about the history of the park, marketing/communications, research and journalistic duties. I will take away so many lessons and experiences that I learned from working in this national park, and I will continue to grow and preserve nature and natural life. To be able to experience this kind of work first-hand has opened my eyes to the possibilities of work that can be challenging and fun, and I have realized potential in myself. The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park has helped me grow as an individual and as a civilian just doing my civic duty to help in any way that I can to make this world a better place for everyone. The wind in my sails will continue to direct me towards the horizon where new adventure begins and where the lighthouse shines just as bright.
By Sam Chavarria
Last updated: April 16, 2018