Encounters with dolphins

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Chandler Audette enjoyed her internship at Dolphin Encounters in the Bahamas and hopes to return as a trainer someday before heading out on another life adventure.

When most of us remember internships, we picture days spent doing someone’s “busy work,” usually in an indoor environment.

But that’s all changed in the past several years.

Recently, the Post-Record profiled several Camas students who spent the summer in internships ranging from new inventions to architecture.

After the initial article ran, the paper received an e-mail from Brandy Audette, the mother of a Washougal High School senior, further confirming that internships as we remember them have changed.

Her daughter, Chandler, had just returned from spending a week in the Bahamas working at Dolphin Encounters at Blue Lagoon Island. Audette has aspirations to be a marine biologist and the internship was a “once in a life opportunity,” as her mother, Brandy, puts it.

“Chandler was at a crossroads trying to make decisions for her future and I think taking part in this internship helped cement her goals for the future,” Brandy said. “By being able to work hands-on in a field that she expressed interest in, she was able to get a feel for whether or not this was the right path for her and ease some of the pressure she had been feeling about her life’s direction.”

To be accepted into the program, Chandler had to fill out a written application, and write an essay. Then, the finalists were interviewed via phone to determine who would make the final cut.

“Until my junior year, I was more interested in majoring in business,” Chandler said. “Then I found this internship and told my mom I was interested. And who doesn’t want to go to the Bahamas and play with dolphins?”

Chandler and Brandy stayed in the Bahamas from Aug. 23 to 30. Every day, Chandler took a ferry to Blue Lagoon Island, job shadowing with the dolphin trainers and attending classes.

Two other interns, both from the Bahamas, worked with her.

“The first day we had to work in the fish kitchen, sorting through dead fish and that was not fun. But the rest of the time we prepared the dolphins’ medicines, hydrated them, and had training sessions.”

The interns spent approximately two hours in the water every day, working with the animals.

“That was definitely my favorite part,” she said. “It was really cool. Dolphins are amazing animals. They literally know everything about you when you jumped in the water: your shape, your size. It was cool seeing how they understood things and learned so quickly.”

Brandy said the internship has helped Chandler become more focused on what she wants to do after high school.

“I am so proud of her accomplishments,” she said. “She worked hard while she was there, impressing the trainers enough that they told her she was welcome to return anytime.”

Chandler said it helped cement her career choice.

“I’m a lot more driven and determined now,” she said. “I got to experience something a lot of kids don’t. I gained a lot of hands-on knowledge I wouldn’t have gotten in the classroom.”

Chandler hasn’t made a final decision on where to attend college, but is considering either Cal Poly or University of Oregon. At WHS, she plays soccer, basketball and participated on the equestrian team year round.

She recommends an internship to other high school students who may be debating between potential career choices.

“I was really nervous, but it went amazingly well,” she said. “There were people with lots of knowledge about the things I’m interested in. At the same time, you also get hands-on experience so if you don’t like it, you find out right away instead of studying it all through college.”

Chandler isn’t sure what she’ll ultimately choose for a career, but plans to major in marine biology and psychology.

“I’m thinking of going back to the Bahamas and training for a few years, then moving on to my next adventure,” she said.