Author: Khadija Shaikh
This summer, I got an internship with a newly grant-funded project, the Connecticut Trail Finder. It was the first environmental-related job I ever held and to say I am sad that it is ending today would be an understatement. You see, this summer was not only a positive experience but a healthy one. I was grateful enough to learn about resilience, perseverance, and assertiveness. The rapport that was established between me and my supervisors was one I had dreamed about when first entering the workforce.
Being a Muslim Indian woman who chooses to wear Hijab, it can quite difficult for me to believe in myself and be proud of the career path I have chosen. It is not just due to the stereotypical Indian parental and societal pressures but also because of the lack of representation in the environmental field. Just recently did I declare myself an environmentalist because for so long I never really understood how a Muslim Indian woman who chooses to wear Hijab fit into this dominating white discipline. Instead, of positive experiences, I hear of marginalized members being mistreated and tokenized in the workplace due to their lack of matching the stereotypical white, male, “tree-hugger vegan” of an environmentalist. Due to these encounters and insecurities, I was fearful to apply for an internship, afraid that I would quickly join the group of discriminated marginalized environmentalists. However, this fear lessened as I began my summer internship.
My supervisors have continuously and constantly supported and encouraged me to be a “go-getter”. From even before I started my internship, during my interview, I remember feeling at ease speaking with them about my passions, experiences, and career goals. They responded with such excitement and with such cheer that it felt like they wanted what was best for me. I really appreciated that. At the beginning of each week, my supervisors would check in with me to establish the goals and priorities for the week, but also see how I was doing mentally and emotionally. This summer was intense for personal reasons, however, the relationship I had with my supervisors allowed me to be honest during my weekly check-ins and know that my supervisors were my advocates.
The summer internship was not all easy though, it challenged me. As I mentioned previously, I learned what it meant to be assertive and how important it is to be. Prior to this internship, I was passive when relaying my ideas and opinions, I would never come forth with my own until I felt comfortable enough to and even then, that was rare. I wasn’t brought up in a household where I could freely speak my mind, and with the lack of diverse representation in the environmental field, it felt even harder to be able to feel valued enough to voice my concerns. However, the team I worked with during my internship made it a point to ask me for my thoughts and for what my goals were for the internship. It was a relationship in where my team members wanted me to grow and thrive. I felt appreciated and as if I ever needed help, there would be plenty of people more than willing to offer.
This summer I got an internship. One that provided me with an expectation of a healthy work environment, role models who exhibit perseverance, and values of assertiveness and honesty. I am thankful for this experience, however, I am a bit upset that it was such a great one because now it will be ending. I know it is for the best, I have opportunities lined up for the future, but now I have this expectation and knowledge of what it’s like to work in a place where you are encouraged constantly to speak your mind and push for the projects that you want to make happen. I just hope that I continue to have experiences such as this one.
Thank you Kimberly Bradley and Laura Brown for your endless support and love, I appreciate both of you. Thank you to the rest of the CT Trails Team and partners, I have had such a wonderful time working with all of you, I hope our paths cross sometime soon.
As we say farewell to Khadija Shaikh for all of her time and hard work, we also would like to say if you ever want to contact us, please feel free to at firstname.lastname@example.org.