If there was ever an internship tailor made for a student, Sam Bernstein ’17 has found it.
Bernstein is a veteran Hamilton Outing Club member and leader who is interning this summer at Zoar Outdoor in Western Massachusetts. Zoar is an outdoor recreation company that offers guided whitewater rafting trips, zipline canopy tours, and whitewater kayaking and canoeing instruction for everyone from beginners to advanced paddlers.
As an intern in the paddlesports department, Bernstein spends most of his time shadowing or acting as an assistant instructor on a variety of kayaking and canoeing clinics. “When I’m not on a clinic I do photo and video production with a focus on promoting our broad range of course offerings as well as the specialty products stocked in our shop,” he said.
Since he’s been at Hamilton Bernstein has fallen in love with the sport of whitewater kayaking. Last year he worked with Andrew Jillings, director of outdoor leadership, and Jillian Donze ’17 to teach a beginner kayaking seminar through the Outing Club.
“I came away from that wanting to pursue instruction further and see if it could be a potential career path for me,” said Bernstein. He had taken a Zoar instructor certification course in 2014 and Jillings suggested that he contact the company to discuss an internship. Zoar was receptive to the idea and everything flowed from there. His internship is supported by Summer Internship Funding 2016, managed by the Career Center.
“More than anything else I came into the summer wanting to improve my skills as an instructor,” said Bernstein. “Zoar has a great reputation for providing really high quality instruction so there’s a lot of potential for learning simply by watching my co-workers teach,” he explained. In addition, he was eager to receive feedback on the quality of his lessons and suggestions on ways to improve.
Bernstein also wanted to see if he enjoyed being a full-time instructor. “My confidence in my skills as an instructor has grown in leaps and bounds over the course of this internship,” he said. “I’ve also gotten much better at finding ways to engage different types of learners, since some students learn best by going out and trying something a dozen times, while other would rather hear a full explanation of the techniques,” Bernstein remarked.
“My favorite part of this internship is that I get to share the sport I love with other people. Some are coming to refine their skills,” he said, “while others are looking to test the waters (no pun intended) and see if kayaking might be something they could end up being passionate about.” Bernstein finds it rewarding when a student accomplishes something that they’d been afraid of doing. “I remember one clinic where a student was really struggling to stay upright and was constantly flipping over and having to swim out of his boat. I’m pretty sure that my smile was even bigger than his when he finally made it down through a rapid without falling over,” Bernstein recalled.
Not surprisingly, Bernstein is interested in working in the outdoors after graduating from Hamilton. He said he’d “like to branch out into outdoor & experiential education programs working with children where I can hopefully combine my background in geosciences with my love for pretty much every type of outdoor recreation (but paddlesports in particular). This internship has helped me confirm that kayaking instruction is something I could happily and enthusiastically pursue after graduation.”