Emily Kiss '24

A perfect opportunity turns into perfect fit
UNH student Emily Kiss

Emily Kiss ’25 is a wildlife and conservation biology major from Madison, Conn. who spent her summer interning at the South Florida Wildlife Center thanks to a stipend she received from COLSA’s SOAR fund.

"I was incredibly lucky to be able to receive an award that was part of the COLSA Soar Fund," says Emily. "I am incredibly grateful to be granted that award because I truly would not be able to be in South Florida without this award."  

The SOAR Fund supports undergraduate students by providing stipends that can be used to supplement unpaid internships or pay for transportation to interviews and career events. The SOAR Fund accepts applications year-round. While all COLSA students are invited to apply,applicants with financial need are strongly encouraged.

COLSA: Tell us about your internship.

Emily Kiss: I am a wildlife rehabilitation intern at the South Florida Wildlife Center. I was lucky enough to obtain one of the many internship opportunities they offer. Each week I am assigned to a rotation that includes taking care of animals and their habitats. Some days I am working on the aviaries, which includes setting up foliage, preparing diets, and cleaning their habitats. Other days I am assigned to our holding banks. This rotation includes taking care of non-native animals, mostly pigeons and doves. I will gather their meds for them and rotate through all our non-native patients until they all have their respective meds. This rotation also includes caring for our pelicans. Because we are in South Florida, the hospital always has pelicans. I will prep their diets while also giving them any medication they require, usually eye meds.

COLSA: How did you find out about the internship?

Emily: Essentially, I found out about this internship by Google. I knew I wanted a unique opportunity this summer, and I searched and searched through many different wildlife hospitals, sanctuaries and zoos until I found one that seemed like a good fit. Then I found the South Florida Wildlife Center and I applied and got the position I wanted!  

COLSA: What attracted you to the position?

Emily: I was attracted to basically everything about this position. I have always wanted to work with animals in any capacity. So, reading that I would be exposed to hands-on experience, diet prepping, rescuing and releasing, and medicating them, all sounded extremely appealing. It just seemed like a perfect opportunity to take, so I did!

COLSA: Looking back on what you accomplished as an intern, what are you most proud of?

Emily: I am most proud of my confidence in handling animals. Before this, I hadn't much experience with it. But, by working here, I gained so much knowledge about many different types of animals and how to act around them. Though I initially felt unsure about how to handle them, I was always comfortable around the animals. That comfort just grew as I learned how to handle them. My amazing mentors have taught me so much and helped me gain this newfound confidence and experience.

COLSA: What was the most valuable thing you learned?

Emily: A comfortable work environment is so important. Especially when working with animals that can cause serious harm to you. I was able to tell my mentors when I was uncomfortable doing something and when I needed help and I was able to ask them loads of questions. I never felt uncomfortable or unwelcome. Feeling that sense of comfort made going to work so easy and exciting. No matter what I was assigned to that day, I was always excited to see my coworkers.

COLSA: In what way(s) has this experience impacted you?

Emily: This experience has impacted me in many ways! For one, I made some very good friendships that I will dearly miss when I go back to Connecticut/New Hampshire. For another, it made me very secure in what I want my future to look like. As I said before, I have always loved animals and have always wanted to work with them, but working at this wildlife hospital made me appreciate my passion so much more. I know I have animals in some capacity in my future career and this was a great start to figuring out where I want to go.

COLSA: Any advice for students looking for an internship?

Emily: Do your research. If you feel lost or as if there aren't any opportunities, just Google. It doesn't take long to start a deep dive into places that you would be interested in working at. Compile a list of potential places, even if they seem unlikely, and send an introductory email to all of them! You never know who is willing to take you on.

COLSA: Tell us something you love about UNH.

Emily: Everything! I love being on campus and seeing my friends. The energy on campus is really unbeatable, especially when it is super warm or super cold. I find students always find something fun to do in the extreme temperatures. Also, there are so many opportunities planted around campus. I always see signs for concerts or abroad programs or some type of funding available.