Small Town Girl Finds Passion in the Big City

Posted on Friday, Dec 16, 2016

It’s been over a year, and I still find myself asking, “How did a chicken-raising, boot-loving, dirt-accustomed, small town girl find herself so infatuated with Washington, D.C.?”  Let me back up.  My name is Krystyn Krafka and I am a recent Texas A&M graduate who studied Ecological Restoration and Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences.  I grew up in deep South Texas; I’m the offspring of a farmer and a certified public accountant.  I was involved with 4-H and FFA for more than ten years and I spent more time outside playing in cotton than I did inside with my Gameboy.  I possess a fierce passion to conserve and manage our wild landscapes so our natural resources can be harnessed responsibly.  And, like every millennial, I am trying to figure out how I can take my passion and turn it into a meaningful career.
I first interned in Washington, D.C. in the Spring of 2015 with A&M’s Agricultural and Natural Resource Program (ANRP).  I interned for my hometown Congressman, fully immersed in the agricultural and environmental issues that I was so close to growing up in South Texas.  I absolutely loved my time in D.C.  I never imagined this small town girl would get thrown into a suit in Washington D.C., much less enjoy it!  Coming back to College Station to finish my senior year, I told every student willing to hear me advocate for the program that if they had even the slightest interest, they should apply for this amazing, once-on-a-lifetime experience.  By the very nature of the program, it will give new perspective to any student’s academic studies and future career.
During my senior year I searched for a job, looking high and low for the ultimate entry-level job where my passion would collide with a high salary and prime location (ha!).  During my search, I discovered I was eligible to apply to ANRP’s sister program, the Public Policy Internship Program (PPIP).  Another opportunity to relive my experience in Washington D.C. the semester after I graduate and prolong the inevitability of becoming a full-time adult?  Sign me up!  I applied, was accepted into the program, and am currently interning with an amazing consulting company.  Where once I assumed I would never return to Washington D.C, I am now looking to continue my career in the city long-term.   So I repeat myself.  It’s been over a year, and I (and now probably you) still ask the question, “How did this small town girl find her place in Washington, D.C.?”  My love doesn’t lie in the city itself, but with the people that work here.  I thought I fell in love with the experience I had interning last year.  And while I did have some great experiences, I discovered I really fell in love with the passion people had for public service that can only be found in a nation’s capital like Washington, D.C.  I have that same passion.  I want to create change and help the public understand the importance of conservation and responsible resource management.
For those of us that are interning now, and for those prospective students that are looking for guidance or insight about what it may be like to intern in Washington, D.C., I urge you to recognize that interning in Washington, D.C. is an opportunity that has the power to open so many more doors in the future if you approach it the right way.  My first internship was a great experience but I took it for granted; I viewed it as a once-and-done experience.  I didn’t network as much as I should; I didn’t search out and explore all the nooks and crannies of our country’s Capital; and I certainly allowed myself to become complacent with my internship position.  Luckily, I got a second chance, but don’t let your experience require a second chance.  Do it right the first time.
This internship can be so much more than just a semester-long experience.  It’s not so much a once-in-a-lifetime event as it is the beginning of your life-long career.  It is where you can begin to build your network with former students and expand it to include those in your field.  It’s not just a flashy job to put on your resume.  It can be the beginning of really understanding how your college studies fit into this messy world and it will allow you to make better connections between academic theory and life’s reality than what you parrot on multiple choice exams.  Finally, this internship is not something to fill the gap between college and a job.  It can be the catapult to give you the knowledge, skills, and abilities to be able to exceed expectations in all future endeavors.  It allows you to push your limits and challenge yourself.  You may even find that what you are doing is not something you want to continue.  In discovering what you don’t like, you will also learn more about what direction you should pursue.  If you are looking to jump-start your career, then look no further.  This program will teach you what it takes to make that happen.  If you are looking for that once-in-a-lifetime experience, then take this leap of faith.  I hope you find your passion in the midst of it all.

Krystyn Krafka
Booz Allen Hamilton