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Marjolein Admiraal about her internship at the National Museum of Natural History

How did you look for an internship? What was your ‘search method’?

I did not even look for an internship, it is not a compulsory part of the Research Master Art History and Archaeology and I just didn’t really think about it. However, my mentor: Prof. Hacquebord encouraged me and suggested that I send an email to a contact of his at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, USA. I, of course, immediately recognized that this was an amazing opportunity for me and so I send a nice email to the director of the Arctic Studies Center in Washington DC. To my surprise they were immediately very enthusiastic and told me: “we would love to have you”. I ended up interning at the National Museum of Natural History with Dr. Dennis Stanford of the Paleo-Indian program for 10 weeks. In my field (Archaeology) my main interest is the initial peopling of the Americas during the last Ice Age. Therefore the Paleo-Indian program was the best place for me.

What did you learn from the internship? For what reason do you think students should undertake an internship?

I have learned a lot of different things during my internship. During my internship I conducted my own research under the supervision of Dr. Stanford. Naturally I learned a lot from him about the peopling of the Americas and the details of American archaeological issues. I learned about what it is like to work in such a major research environment (the Smithsonian Institution is the biggest museum and research centre in the world). The museum has many resources that attract students and scholars from all over the world: collections, libraries, experts in various fields, etc. I learned about the importance of having a network and maintaining those contacts. The internship at the Smithsonian has opened doors for me and it has shown me which way I want to go in my career. I believe any internship can be a very important experience because you get a sneak peek into the ‘real’ world of your discipline of interest. It will show you what the working life might be like. For me it was a very positive experience. Another thing that I value highly are all the nice contacts I made during my time away from home.

Marjolein Admiraal
Marjolein Admiraal

What did you like best?

I loved the museum. Just being surrounded by all these amazing artefacts was a motivation by itself to come to work everyday with a smile on my face. I loved taking the long route to the office through the Dinosaur and Ice Age halls, walking by the T-Rex, Mastodons and Mammoths everyday. In Dr. Stanford’s office were all the prehistoric projectile points that I was studying. It is just a lot of fun to actually study real artefacts, especially when you have been reading about those very artefacts for years. Besides the artefacts I truly enjoyed being in this environment where something always seems to be happening. People are passionate about their work and are enthusiastic to tell you all about it but they are also very much interested in your work. I have felt very much accepted by many different people during my stay in Washington DC.

What would you do differently the next time you would do an internship?

There is not much I would change about the time I spent at the museum. Perhaps I could have been a little more organized so I could have finished more work. Overall the internship went well, everything was taken care of and I enjoyed it a lot.

What would you advise other students for their internships?

The only advice I can give is to chase after your dreams. I would have never thought that I would one day be interning at the Smithsonian in the United States of America, but I did! I chose a study direction that is not as common: Archaeology. As a specialization I chose an even more uncommon field: the Arctic area. I am taking a chance by choosing this direction of study, perhaps I could more easily get a job if I did something more conventional. However, this is what I want to do and I am loving every moment of it. I feel that I have made use of all the possibilities that the RUG and my study had to offer. I would encourage students to do the same, there are endless possibilities, funds, places to travel to and people to meet along the way.

For me it has been a great adventure. Through my contacts at the museum I got into contact with archaeologists in Nevada and Alaska and I got invited to visit their archaeological sites after my internship. This once again shows what such an internship can mean for your career, it is the best way to meet people and to prove your own skills. If you are good at what you do people will notice and it can get you places.  

Last modified:18 December 2017 11.51 a.m.
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