Tell us a little bit about your internship.
For the last six months, I’ve been working and living at Tumacacori National Historical Park in Tumacacori, Arizona. The “Women in Missions” historical research internship is funded through a grant from the National Park Foundation’s “Women in Parks” initiative, and is also facilitated through Americorps. My internship focused exclusively on researching the lives of women during the Spanish colonial mission era, particularly the lives of women within missions. Mission-era records were written exclusively by men – priests, soldiers, and officials – of high rank, or their male scribes, in Spanish. Extracting an understanding of the lives of women during mission times requires more than average focus, fluent Spanish reading ability, and an ability to read between the lines in historic documents which only obliquely touch on the lives of women. I was lucky enough to explore all of these avenues in my research for the park. Because of my passion about highlighting the often-untold stories of indigenous women, I choose to centralize most of my research about their experiences and histories.
How have your Honors classes helped prepare you for your internship?
My Honors experience has been pivotal in preparing me not only for my other courses and for life, but also for this internship with Tumacacori National Historical Park. My previous research projects conducted in my Honors curriculum helped to give me the critical thinking skills, patience, and research skillset that I ultimately ended up using to conduct my historical research. Something surprising that I gleaned from my Honors courses, and my fabulous professors, was the gift of asking questions, even if we are not sure we can find an answer to them. The act of asking questions, even really strange ones, is so important to conducting historical research because it challenges historiographers to think in new and innovative ways. It becomes easy for us to understand history in antiquated and esoteric ways when we keep only wondering the same things about history, or asking the same questions of it. We keep hearing the same stories. But when we choose to ask different questions, even if they’re harder to answer, we give ourselves the chance to uncover histories that have gone unexplored. In the case of indigenous women’s experiences within Spanish missions, asking these crucial and difficult questions was of utmost importance.
Do you have any advice for students looking to start internships?
My advice for students looking to start internships is to not be picky, to apply to everything, and to look for internships in unconventional places. I mean, heck, I found my historical research internship on a site dedicated to environmental preservation! One other piece of advice is that you just have to stay focused and stay inspired. I know it can be hard to keep motivated, and it is definitely exhausting to be relentlessly applying, applying, applying to internships, to hear no, or nothing at all. But it is more important to persevere and just keep searching–know that when you keep your passions and your enthusiasm at the forefront, potential employers will see and value that, even if in a field you didn’t expect.
What is your favorite part of the internship?
My favorite part of this internship is learning that there is so much I didn’t know I could do! I constantly feel like I’m pushing the boundaries of what I thought I was capable of doing in the way of long-term, intensive research projects. I love the feeling of learning a new skill, uncovering a new research strategy, and of completing an interpretive display of the research I’ve been conducting (so I can share my research with the public!).