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Each summer, numerous interns make Bemidji area their home away from home

Department of Natural Resources Forestry intern Garett Hamilton unloads a four wheeler for training. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — It’s a Wednesday afternoon, there’s a drizzle sifting through the trees and Lynn Duijndam is out on assignment with her supervisor checking on a waste water management facility near Red Lake.

After finishing their duties at the facility, Duijndam returns to the Indian Health Services office in Bemidji to evaluate the data and complete any other work assigned to her.

Duijndam is one of many students completing an internship in the region relating to their field of study, and with the summer season well under way, locals can expect to see an increase in the number of college students from near and afar making their way here to complete internships and gain valuable work experience throughout the next three months.

"I wanted to learn a lot, so I applied for an Indian Health Services internship and they placed me here in Bemidji," said Duijndam, who is in her fifth year at Michigan Technological University studying civil engineering.

Duijndam, who calls the Twin Cities area home, said there are Indian Health Services offices all across the nation and that being placed in Bemidji was "based on a need."

Working as a full-time intern until the end of July, Duijndam said having the chance to work at a job she might be interested in has had many benefits.

"As engineers, internships can really help us (engineering students) get a job, so it’s been helpful," she said. "I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, and so these internships helped me decide."

This will be Duijndam’s second internship, as she previously interned in the Twin Cities area dealing with wastewater collection systems last summer.

Molly Aitken-Julin, internship and employment coordinator for Bemidji State University, works closely with students to help them obtain an internship during the summer, and said she understands their significance.

"With the way the workforce is now, it’s so competitive," Aitken-Julin said. "Anything they can do to set them apart from other candidates can help them land a job."

Garett Hamilton, another student interning here for the summer at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources northwest office in Bemidji, is preparing to graduate next spring from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in forestry, specializing in natural resources and restoration.

"Interning in Bemidji has exceeded my expectations," said Hamilton, who added Bemidji is his second internship. "A lot of internships can’t often compare to what I’ve been able to do here, as far as being treated like a real employee."

Recalling he’s always had a passion for the outdoors and forestry, Hamilton said with his dad having always been active in conservation and his participation in the "Pheasants Forever" program, studying forestry seemed to be a good fit.

Beginning his internship in mid-May, Hamilton will be completing a variety of tasks for the next 10 weeks, until his 400 hour internship is complete.

"I’ve been working mainly with the Environmental Classification System, which involves looking at the forest around the area in order to classify things," the Independence, Iowa, native said. "I’ve also been able to mark timber trails, do some regeneration surveying and check out logging sites and evaluate their quality to the environment."

Aside from the student’s benefits, Aitken-Julin explained internships can provide businesses with many opportunities.

"It’s an inexpensive marketing tool to bring in more awareness and local talent," Aitken-Julin said. "It definitely benefits both sides."

Lori Paris, president of the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce, said internships are a good indicator of a student’s competency for their chosen career choice, and also provides a learning experience for the business. "Internships are a test drive, and in the end, we want to snag up these potential employees," Paris said. "If nothing else, it’s something to add to their resume."

Newcomers to Bemidji, both Hamilton and Duijndam said the transition of moving here has been a great experience.

"There’s quite a bit to do here in Bemidji," Hamilton said, adding he enjoys living near Lake Beltrami.

When she’s not working, Duijndam spends much of her time running and roller skiing.

For Duijndam, gaining practical engineering skills does not end this summer.

As part of her graduation requirements, Duijndam said she plans to travel to Panama in the coming months to collect data and design plans for a water pipe system to transfer water to a small village that will eventually be built by volunteers from the Peace Corps.

"I’m really excited as I’ll get to help people," she said.

As for Hamilton, his internship in Bemidji has helped him finalize his decision to find work in the forestry industry.

"I’m pretty lenient on where I want to end up," he said. "It’s a possibility that I’ll end up in Minnesota, but it just depends on if I find a job here."

Hamilton added there is forestry work in the western part of the nation that he might be interested in looking into, but mostly he’s eager to find work upon graduation.

"There are so many opportunities in the forestry industry," he said. "It’s nice to be able to learn a little more about what I plan to pursue."