"My VRG Internship"

Two Interns Relate Their Experiences

Erin Smith

During my six-week, long-distance internship with The Vegetarian Resource Group, I was able to take advantage of some valuable opportunities. I was able to write a "Vegetarian Action" article and "Veggie Bits" for the Vegetarian Journal, write informative pieces for the VRG website to help other vegetarian teens, and add to VRG's guide to veg-friendly restaurants. All of these assignments helped me grow and learn. As I worked for VRG, I saw my writing improve and my confidence skyrocket. While I used to be timid about talking on the phone, I can now confidently call up a business and ask them questions. I also learned about time management and how to work and communicate effectively with different people. All of this will be very helpful to me as I continue through high school and on to college in the future.

Erin Smith was a long-distance high school intern with The Vegetarian Resource Group. Internships are unpaid. If you would like to intern with The VRG either in Baltimore or long-distance, please send to vrg@vrg.org a résumé if available, writing samples, and a letter indicating the dates you want to do the internship, time available, year in school if still in school, skills, experience, interests, what you want to learn from the internship, future goals, and vegetarian knowledge.

When I first boarded the plane traveling from Salt Lake City to Baltimore, my stomach was upset with a mixture of anxiety and excitement. Earlier that year, I was offered an internship with The Vegetarian Resource Group, which I happily accepted, and I was now beginning my multi-month journey.

Previously in my life, I had never traveled further east from Utah than Colorado, especially not alone, so this was a big step in the direction of personal independence.

The plane ride, compared to a Greyhound bus ride, was over in no time, and before I knew it, I was at the Baltimore airport being greeted by Jeannie McStay and Charles Stahler of The VRG. The car ride to what would be deemed 'home' for the next two-and-a-half months was filled with fun and interesting facts about Baltimore's history. Since starting my internship, one thing has remained constant the entire time: people I have met since being here always seem to go out of their way to make me feel comfortable and accepted. If it were not for my colleagues at The VRG, who I now consider friends, I would have slipped into a self-pitying black hole of loneliness.

My first week working entailed a tour of the office (I did not expect the extensive library.), an introduction to a few of the people responsible for a smooth-running organization, and a crash course on what happens behind the scenes of The VRG, which includes what I would then be responsible for.

Major projects for my internship:

  • Write a FAQ for the upcoming teen section of The VRG's website. I had some trouble with this. The question I originally chose to answer was very broad and did not apply to personal experience I had. After consulting with Charles and Reed Mangels, I decided to go in a different direction. Here is the question I answered: "There is a small local restaurant that offers vegetarian options that no one knows about. What can I do to let people know?"
  • Write a "Vegetarian Action" piece that will be featured in an issue of the Vegetarian Journal. I chose someone close to home to write about; Kelly Green is the founder of the vegan bakery 'Cakewalk' in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was extremely helpful to me during our interview and even provided some samples (vegan cupcakes and vegan Twinkies called 'dillos') that my family was more than happy to devour. It is hard to describe the way I felt when Debra showed me the format my article would have and how it would look in the Journal. Proud? Yes. (See page 35.)- The 2009 survey on vegetarianism. "Nothing is ever as easy as it seems" would be my choice phrase for describing this project. I was required to learn how to use a mail-merge program and to make numerous phone calls regarding surveys. What I learned from this task is that organization can be my best friend, and math can be my worst. The importance of teamwork and keeping others informed also prevailed, although maybe not so much at first. I would not have accomplished anything without the guidance of the computer master, i.e., John Cunningham.
  • The Book Expo America. Attending The Book Expo America was a great way to experience New York for the first time. The first day, I helped to carry supplies and set up our booth in preparation for the event the next day. Debra suggested that we see the city while we still had energy and were up for the walk, which meant before the Expo began. So that night I toured New York with my native guide (Debra), and the tour even included a restaurant stop in Chinatown for, you guessed it, Chinese food! The next few days would be filled with manning our booth, networking, and collecting books. I was introduced to an array of people who were in some way affiliated with The VRG, and I handed out issues of Vegetarian Journal to passersby. Occasionally, I would talk to someone interested in The VRG and refer them back to Charles or Debra. It seemed like "Oh, my [insert female relative noun] is a vegetarian/vegan" was stated frequently from people picking up the Journal. There were also people who felt the need to justify why they still ate meat after being offered the literature, which I still don't completely understand. By the end of the Expo, I was exhausted from all of the work and socializing, so I slept and snored on the car ride back to Baltimore.

The rest of my internship time was filled with less 'major' projects but still important ones. These assignments included:

  • Helping with restaurant listings. I've never wanted Thai food more in my life than after doing this.
  • Clerical work (like packaging books to be shipped out). Jeannie is a pro at packing boxes; my tape never laid as flat as hers.
  • Learning HTML, all thanks to Heather's help.
  • Writing, editing, and sending press releases. This would not have worked out so well if it weren't for Rachael, the other intern.

My overall experience interning at The Vegetarian Resource Group has been a very rewarding one; I am going back to Utah having gained knowledge and friends. I think when it comes to working for a non-profit, you really have to love what you are doing, and I loved interning here. Thanks to everyone involved in making this encounter possible, and positive.

— July 2009

Kristen Lambert was a VRG intern and recipient of the Eleanor Wolff Scholarship. If you would like to apply for a VRG internship in Baltimore or to do a long-distance internship, please send a résumé, writing sample, and cover letter detailing your interests, skills, goals, and vegetarian knowledge to The Vegetarian Resource Group, P.O. Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203, or e-mail to vrg@vrg.org. Most internships are not paid. If you are looking for a paid internship, please indicate your financial need.