When SUNY Cobleskill senior Amanda Isaacs arrived at the Animal Care Sanctuary for an internship on Feb. 17, she didn’t realize she would soon have to make a difficult decision.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread across the country and states began shutting down, the Brooklyn native had two choices — stay in East Smithfield through May 8 or head back home and start her internship over in the summer.
Isaacs decided to stick it out here in Bradford County, and it turned out to be a positive experience for the soon-to-be college graduate.
“The biggest thing was having to graduate in May, and this is one of my graduation requirements,” Isaacs said. “I decided to stick it out, regardless of the length of time I’d be here for.”
Isaacs called the experience so far at ACS “amazing.”
“Honestly, it’s been really amazing. I started off in the vet clinic and I was pretty excited about that just because I am a pre-vet student, so I was excited to be starting off there,” she said.
Isaacs admitted that part of her decision to stay in East Smithfield was based on what was happening in New York City.
“I did feel like I’d be safer up here as well. I feel bad leaving my family at home because my father drives a bus, so he’s pretty exposed right now, but at the end of the day, I have to think of myself and I do want to graduate on time, so I decided staying up here was the best option,” she said.
Isaacs said her mom also told her to stick it out at ACS.
“She was fully supportive of my decision. She understands that I’m a go-getter and really independent, so she was like ‘Hey, if you feel like this is what you need to do, then I’m all for it. I’m not going to beg you to come home and stay quarantined with us at all,’” Isaacs said.
Isaacs credited the Animal Care Sanctuary staff with being there for her during the internship.
“They are really nice and helping and supportive. Anything that I need, it’s no problem for me to ask — they help out with no hesitation,” Isaacs said.
Rachel Rossiter, who is the assistant director at ACS, admitted that Isaac’s experience has been a little different than previous interns.
“Amanda has had a strange internship just because we are super short-staffed, and we are not able to operate the way we normally do,” Rossiter said. “A lot of things have been improvised, and luckily we still had the clinic open when we had that rotation so she did get to see how the veterinary clinic operated when it’s open for the public.”
Having a strong internship program is important to ACS, according to Rossiter.
“We’re always striving to do things better. Before interns leave we have an exit interview and we ask them to be completely honest and tell us what they experienced, how they think we can change for the better. If things are bad, good or ugly, we want to hear about it because we want to make our program better,” she said. “It’s a learning experience for both sides. We typically learn from them and they learn from us, so I think it’s very valuable.”
Isaacs said she would “absolutely recommend” the Animal Care Sanctuary internship to other students.
“Aside from the vet clinic, the cattery is another rotation that gives you hands-on experience. I didn’t expect to have those experiences there. Yes, it’s a lot of cleaning, but there’s different things that I get to practice with in terms of training, identifying and diagnosing sick animals, things like that. Things that kind of get put on the back burner when you think of vet work, so I think that’s really cool,” Isaacs said.
Isaacs, who has been fostering a dog during her stay at ACS, isn’t 100 percent sure of what she’s going to do when the internship wraps up on May 8.
“After the internship I will be heading home. I’m kind of weighing my options if I stay a few days just to wait it out a little bit or I want to head home immediately,” she said. “Right now, Brooklyn has been hit pretty hard. A lot of the essential workers are losing their lives as well as the lives of their family. I have a few friends who lost relatives to it, and some are even in the same line of work as my father, so that’s kind of scary.”
She also isn’t sure if vet school will be in her future — at least not right away.
“I’m debating getting my vet tech license first, so thats more on the forefront — and then after working in that field a little bit I will decide if I want to go to vet school,” she said.