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Internships and Semester Study Abroad with WEC student Adrian Dougherty

This fall, Adrian Dougherty traded in the flat landscapes of Gainesville for the mountains and grasslands of Ecuador through a study abroad program. This past summer, the senior wildlife ecology and conservation major interned at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge through UF’s biology department. Last summer, Dougherty worked at Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission habitat management intern.

Dougherty believes she earned her internship roles by actively seeking out opportunities and applying to positions that interest her. She shares that students should, “Treat applying to jobs and internships you really want like a job in and of itself: pay attention to detail and put all of your effort into it.”

Dougherty has been working in Quito and the Galapagos Islands through the University of Florida’s study abroad partnership with the Universidad de San Francisco en Quito. This is the second year UF has partnered with this university for the study abroad program.

In fact, it is through a previous study abroad experience where Dougherty learned about this new program through the UF/IFAS Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department.

“I studied abroad in Belize for three weeks the summer after my freshman year, and I had been wanting to do a long-term study abroad program ever since, to truly get immersed in the culture and push myself outside of my comfort zone,” Dougherty said. “The professor from my program in Belize told me that WEC was creating this new, semester-long study abroad and I immediately decided I would go.”

Dougherty is currently in Ecuador taking ecology-based coursework while also enjoying the local landscapes. Her favorite experience so far has been a trip to the páramo, which is a grassland habitat in the upper Andes.

“We started off early in the morning, taking a bus to the top of a mountain in the Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve and started our hike down,” Dougherty described. “It was freezing, literally. We slowly hiked down the mountain through snow and mud, looking at the plant structures and their survival strategies in such a harsh environment. It even started snowing on us!”

For Dougherty, studying in the comfortable Florida climate in which she is accustomed to is one thing, but traveling abroad to a place with a different language, new people, and unfamiliar environmental problems is another. “It really teaches you how to see things from another point of view,” she shared.

Dougherty finds that it is important to be able to move to a new place, assimilate, and learn how to apply knowledge that she’s gained during her time in Gainesville to a new situation and a new place with an entirely different set of needs and background.

“It is an entirely different experience to travel and be able to apply knowledge I’ve gained through my time at UF to a real-world situation. It brings a whole new level of appreciation and excitement because I actually know what to look for now!” 

Dougherty has two minors, one in international studies and another in Spanish. She explains that it has been invaluable during her time abroad, living with Spanish-speaking families. Her Spanish instructor at UF said that when you obtain a new language, you obtain a new worldview. Dougherty knows this will be vital to her future career – she hopes to work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a wildlife biologist.

Dougherty encourages other CALS students to study abroad by actively seeking opportunities by reaching out to professors and program coordinators. If you are interested in studying abroad click here to visit the CALS website for more information on the multitude of programs available through CALS across six continents. If you would like to get involved in international or state-side research opportunities and don’t know where to start, click here to visit the CALS website for a list of resources to help you get started.

“Getting research experience [at UF] is easier than it sounds,” Dougherty said. “Pay attention to emails asking for research help. If you want to work in something specific, ask research professors and grad students. All you have to do is reach out.”


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