This semester, Lily-Gre Hitchen ’18, a History major from Auburn, New Hampshire, is interning with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. One Thing after Another caught up with Hitchen and asked her about her experiences
Q: What made you decide to do an internship?
A: Ever since I was in grade school I’ve been interested in the courts, lawyers, and the law in general. When I first entered Saint Anselm College, I seriously considered the possibility of going to law school afterwards. Now being a junior, I decided to do an internship that would answer questions that have been brewing since I was a freshman. What do lawyers do? What type of work can a person do in the legal field? What is it like to work with the law? Would I like that type of work? This internship for me was all about discovery; I wanted my questions answered with experience.
Based on my time spent at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NH DES), I would recommend internships to my fellow history majors. I think they are very important in seeing firsthand how skills learned in history classes can be applied to the “real world.” If there is the time and opportunity, I highly recommend completing an internship that is of interest.
Q: What intrigued you about NH DES in particular?
A: The initial thought of working at the NH DES excited me. The main reason that I was intrigued is that I am a huge nature lover, and I care for New Hampshire’s environment in particular. I am from a small town, and I have always enjoyed the outdoors. My home state is very special to me, and I wanted to be able to protect its environment. DES was a great place to pursue my passions.
Q: Can you describe a typical day at the office?
A: I am responsible for a wide variety of tasks at the DES. During a typical day, most of my time is spent working independently on an assigned project. My assignments can range from proofreading legal documents for cross-referencing errors and creating tables expressing the changes in a set of laws to creating draft decisions on environmental fine cases. Drafting fine case decisions are my favorite projects to work on because there are so many facets in making a decision. I read through the file while analyzing the case’s chronology of events, I listen to the fine hearing, and then I draft a document explaining if I think the respondents committed a violation. After I complete the draft, I pass it on for review. When I am not working independently, I am sitting in on meetings or fine hearings.
Q: Are you finding your history skills useful in your legal work?
A: My history skills have helped me in ways that I had never expected. I think the most important history skills that I have used are reading critically, paying attention to detail, not making assumptions, and being skeptical. Using these skills I have spotted mistakes in numerous documents, whether it is in their structure or chronology. Also, being able to formulate a chronology and possessing the ability to point out errors in an already provided chronology is an expertise that history majors are taught and expected to master. However, I never knew that this particular skill would be useful in the working world.
Q: What has been the hardest part of translating your classroom skills into the workplace?
A: The most difficult part of translating my classroom abilities to the workplace was asking questions. In a classroom, a professor is either always open to questions, or specifically asks, “Are there any questions?” However, in a new workplace it is sometimes a balancing act trying to find the appropriate time to ask a question. I did not want to be an annoyance, so at first I was reluctant to speak up. Over the first week, I realized that I did not need to be reluctant when asking questions; I just needed to be respectful. Everyone is busy in the office, so I only ask questions when I cannot continue my work without it being answered. Being concise when asking questions is also a part of respecting their time.
Q: So what do you do to after a busy week of classes and internship?
A: Most of my time outside my classes and internship goes towards the family business. My mother owns a hair salon, Salon OPA, so I have many responsibilities there that I am proud of. I manage the inventory, cash customers out, answer phone calls, and make appointments. I also have my apprentice license in cosmetology and makeup certification, so I can perform some services. One of the most rewarding parts of working at the salon is selling wigs to women who are going through cancer treatment or have alopecia. Working at the salon has given me a joy for business, and the appreciation of entrepreneurs of all kinds.