Finding your passion through internships and study abroad: Lessons from student Joe Shook

May 11, 2012

Joe Shook can attest to the value of major and career exploration.

“Students shouldn’t settle into one mind set or one academic track to the point where they exclude other opportunities," said the University of Wisconsin-Madison junior.

UW-Madison student Joe Shook
UW-Madison junior Joe Shook in Kenya.

"I came in as an engineering major and decided that it wasn’t where I belonged. I went to landscape architecture and decided that field wasn’t for me either and switched my major again.”

Shook’s study abroad opportunities taught him what he does and does not want to do with his life. “I studied abroad in Kenya and Tanzania, researching wildlife management, and then [in] Denmark studying business. When I got back, I knew I wanted to do something more with people.”

He's since enhanced his new majors, community and environmental sociology and environmental studies with certificates in entrepreneurship and global health, through two internships.

Shook first interned with Madison Environmental Group, using an unconventional approach to get hired.

“I went through the application channels on their website, but I wasn’t getting any responses and I knew I wanted to work with them," he said. "One day, I just showed up at their office and asked them if they were looking for an intern. They said ‘Yeah, nice to meet you.’”

In his current role Shook works to support the mission of Slow Food UW as the South Madison intern.

UW-Madison student Joe Shook
Shook studied abroad in three
countries and has interned
with two organizations.

“I work with the Boys and Girls Club on Taft Street," he explained. "Every week I plan a menu based off of what is in season at the farmer’s market. Then every Saturday I take a group of Slow Food UW volunteers to the Boys and Girls Club and we bring food from the farmer’s market to cook with the kids."

Shook is excited about his future and plans to pursue an opportunity with Teach for America after graduation.

"I absolutely love working with kids," he said. "They are great and keep you young.”

His long-term plan to grow food in urban food deserts is even more impressive.

“I think it would be great to adopt the Growing Power model, which is an urban agriculture setup," he said. "I really enjoy [landscape] design, I really enjoy food and I really enjoy agriculture. To combine those in an area where it is really needed, where I would actually be helping someone and doing some good, would make it much more meaningful.”

Originally published on the CALS Career Services blog.