Internship Experiences – Belle October

This summer’s posts feature University of Utah students’ experiences in spring and summer internships.

By Belle October, Graduated May 2023, Honors Environmental and Sustainability Studies

Hi! My name is Belle October and today I’m going to tell you about my internship at the Utah Geological Survey (UGS)! I interned there from January to April of 2023 to fulfill part of my requirements to get my Certificate of Geologic Information Sciences.

To start with, I chose to intern here because I realized too late that I needed to find an internship during my very last semester at college. So, I’ll be honest, it was a bit of a desperation move. Let this be an inspiration to you all, you CAN get an internship in a week. It is possible, so don’t give up hope even in your darkest times.

Learning to Network on the Job

As for my time spent at the UGS, I actually quite liked it. It was great to work in-house with professionals in my field, ranging from veteran experts to people who just got hired last week. Getting shown around the office, learning faces and names was the most enjoyable part of the internship (honorable mention to the UGS bookstore discounts). This, I’d say, was the most valuable thing I gathered. Contacts, a network, people who know my name and face and vouch for my skills. For people my age who have no earthly clue what “networking” is, heed this advice. People who know your name, and who know you have skills, that’s your network. You are always allowed to send them an email asking if they know someone who needs a young upstart, or to ask them in person if they know a guy who could use someone like you.  Just ask, that’s how you network.

Also, just ask if people can be your references/professional contacts. Just ask. It’s okay to be scared, and 99% of the time it’ll work out well.

Building New GIS Skills

The main work I did was georeferencing digitized photos from the 1950s, uploading them into the UGS system so they can be easily looked up by people who use that kind of data.  Think insurance, real estate developers, and government agencies.

This work involved getting intimately familiar with a few new ArcGIS tools, the command line, and the UGS’s server upload tool. For my professional career, increasing my ability to work with ArcGIS and command line will be useful, and I’m sure I’ll carry that knowledge into the future. Learning the bespoke tools that the UGS uses was useful insofar as it makes me much more flexible. Being able to quickly learn how to navigate proprietary systems is instrumental to go to work in jobs that have “technician” in the title.

Lessons Learned

For people in my field, (my degree was Environmental and Sustainability Studies, but this is applicable to anyone in a similar liberal arts degree) I really encourage you to get some sort of certificate that will equip you with a tangible workforce skill. For me, GIS appealed to my interests. I love a good map, and I love working with data. Being able to translate that particular interest of mine into a thing I can put on my resume and point to has allowed me to apply to jobs that I am interested in, but didn’t feel qualified for. Now, with a GIS Certificate, I can apply to a whole cavalcade of positions that I can really excel in.

In sum, don’t be scared of asking people to be your network, it’s absolutely possible to get an internship in a week, and really do get a certificate in something.


Belle October