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BW alumna reflects on summer internship in Alaska

Photo of Julie SimmonsAs students dive into exciting 2019 summer internships, May graduate Julie Simmons '19 looks back on her adventure last summer as a historic restoration intern at Sitka Fine Arts Camp in Sitka, Alaska. During July and August of 2018, Simmons joined a team of other college students from around the country for the experience of a lifetime restoring buildings within the Sheldon Jackson School National Historic Landmark and experiencing the history, culture and environment of Sitka.

Restoring the past

An English major and history and web programming minor, Simmons was drawn to the internship because of her passion for history and past experiences with historical interpretation. Restoring a site, however, was a new and revelatory experience.

"Over the process of restoring a historical site, it becomes more apparent than ever just how real the past was," shared Simmons, "and just how critical it still is to our present.

"You get very up close with the good, the bad, the ugly and the incredible of a historic location in a way you can't just by reading or talking about it, or even from just casually visiting it."

Adventures in Alaska

Photo of a harbor in Sitka, AlaskaSimmons and her fellow interns had three days off each weekend, during which they soaked in Sitka culture, went on adventures - such as hiking or canoeing - and learned more about the rich history and ecology of the area.

One of Simmons' favorite experiences was the internship team's volunteer work for an open water swim race fundraiser. Simmons served as kayak support for two training excursions and the actual race.

"The sense of camaraderie among the volunteers, the main event staff, the swimmers and the local community was incredible," Simmons shared. "There was a beautiful moment of community and an instant sense of belonging there that I will never forget."

"Learning how to learn"

Photo of Julie Simmons doing construction workThrough the internship, Simmons had the opportunity to learn about best restoration practices, historic architecture, construction site safety, and the local history and environment of Sitka. The experience also helped Simmons to learn more about herself and her ability to take on any new adventure.

"I learned just how capable I am of learning and of pushing beyond what I thought my limitations were," Simmons explained. "I realized that, through my education at BW, I hadn't just been learning facts and figures and purely academic skills. I'd been learning how to learn and how to work my way through any challenge I encountered and make it something amazing on the other side."

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