“Hi There! I only recently began following you, but I’m super jealous about your internship at Farm Sanctuary and I’m wondering how you came across such an amazing opportunity and if you have any advice for me to get a similar opportunity?”
I think you’d actually be surprised at how often I get this question. I’m always happy to answer it, though, because Farm Sanctuary an awesome organization to work for and a sanctuary internship is such a fantastic opportunity to develop skills you never knew you had and to do exciting, amazing work. My internship at Farm Sanctuary was a liberating and life changing experience; I’ve had a three week old calf suckle on my fingers, a broiler hen walk up to me and sit on my lap, and I fell asleep cuddling with pigs. Bonding with these animals was incredible for me, and I really can’t recommend the program enough.
Not only did I get the opportunity to form intimate relationships with animals I thought I would never see up close, but I also proved to myself that I’m capable of so many things that I never thought I could do. Farm work is A LOT of manual labor, and as a small female in my early twenties, I certainly never thought of myself as someone who would be able to handle the workload on a farm, but surprisingly, I was wrong. When you push yourself beyond your limits, you will be amazed of what you’re able to accomplish. I carry that new knowledge with me wherever I go now; whenever I encounter a challenge that seems impossible, I remember that I once thought I couldn’t lift dozens of barrels full of cow poop over my head all day for months on end (cow poop is REALLY heavy!) and now I can.
So here are a few tips to help you stand out in the application process:
Volunteer. If you’re applying for an internship at a sanctuary, you’ll really stand out to them if you have a little experience working with animals already. Also, volunteering for their organization is a good way to show that you care abut their cause enough to work for free. I volunteered a few times for Farm Sanctuary before applying and I think it eased their minds a bit to know that I was already acquainted with most of the animals prior to my internship. Farm Sanctuary‘s Los Angeles location has a monthly volunteer work party, where anywhere from 5 to 30 people will show up to lend a hand for the day, and there’s always a potluck lunch which is really fun. You can also volunteer during the week, you just need set an appointment. Most sanctuaries have volunteer information on their websites, or you can give the shelter a call and see if they need any extra help.
Share your ideas. If you’re passionate about something, (in the vain of animal rights) let them know! When you submit your application, attach the paper you wrote in school about the negative effects of factory farming, or include a link to your blog that reviews cruelty free makeup. I sent in writing samples from my blog and a speech I wrote promoting the adoption of a vegan diet for one of my classes at the time. Whatever it is that you create in your life that promotes your passion for animal advocacy, share it! It will set you apart from other applicants by showing how much you care.
Be flexible. Housing is limited at sanctuaries, so they can only have so many interns at a time. Hundreds of people from all over the world are applying to the same internship program that you are, so there is a chance you might not be accepted right away. Don’t let that discourage you! Farm Sanctuary has three locations; Watkins Glenn, NY, Orland, CA and Acton, CA, all of which need interns all year long. If you aren’t accepted into the program at the shelter closest to you, try for one a little further away, or submit another application at a later date. There are also several other farm animal sanctuaries with internship programs that you can apply to. Check out Animal Place, Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, and Sasha Farm for a similar experience. If you’re open to an internship in animal advocacy that’s not focused specifically on farm animal rescue, there are also great internships at Best Friends Animal Society (dogs & cats), Black Pine Animal Sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue (exotic animals), and Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary (wildlife). There are tons of small nonprofit sanctuaries and conservation groups all over the country that have internship programs. Look into all of your options before deciding where you want to apply.
Be ready to work. The life of a sanctuary intern is insanely hectic! You wake up at the crack of dawn every morning and work your ass off all day, outside, 40+ hours a week, and on call the rest of the time. You share a house with four or five other interns. Most of your time will be spent working, sleeping and eating. Get used to other things becoming a second priority, because they have to be. Also, the job isn’t going to be all fun and cow kisses, your responsibilities change from day to day. Sometimes the work is grueling, and sometimes it’s boring, the job isn’t in any way glamorous. (Although I’d take challenging and fulfilling over glamorous any day.)
Have fun! Okay, this isn’t really helpful for standing out on the application, but if you get accepted into a sanctuary internship program, you’re going to have the time of your life. It’s definitely challenging, sometimes the workload is overwhelming, (shoveling poop in the middle of the summer, breaking through sheets of ice to clean out water troughs in the winter, you get the idea) but that’s nothing compared to the amazing things you’ll experience while on the job.
Whether it’s seeing baby animals grow up before your eyes, helping a newly rescued animal learn to trust for the first time, or living with people who have the same amount of passion for equality as you do, there are so many opportunities for once-in-a-lifetime experiences. They’re only a few months long, so cherish the time you have there. You’ll meet amazing, inspiring people that make you feel like absolutely anything is possible. If you’re lucky like I was, you’ll fall in love with your awesome roommates and animal friends, and never want to say goodbye. There are few times in our lives when we get to dedicate our time and work to the betterment of humanity, and this internship is a wonderful opportunity to do just that.
If you’ve ever felt too small or too insignificant to make a difference, this internship program will change that. At Farm Sanctuary, they go beyond simply allowing interns to be part of their amazing organization, but they also focus on educating their interns to be the most effective animal advocates that they can be. With weekly Education lunches, interns get to eat home cooked vegan lunches and watch thought-provoking speeches, eye-opening documentaries, and even get to video chat with interns at other sanctuaries, and intern alumni that have gone off to do amazing things in the world of animal advocacy.
So, please apply to be an intern at Farm Sanctuary! Or any other animal sanctuary! These organizations survive because dedicated volunteers (like you!) are willing to devote their time and attention to a very important and worthy cause. Over 56 billion animals are raised for slaughter every year, and less than 1% of them are rescued and brought to a sanctuary. When you donate your time, you’re allowing these organizations to use that money for other things, like food and medication for the animals (some rescues arrive with horrible maladies; amputated limbs, missing eyes, infections, wounds from cage bars, etc), lobbying and campaigning against legislature that is harmful for farmed animals, and expansion, giving them the opportunity to rescue even more animals that would otherwise be tortured and killed for the sake of one meal.