Interview Tips and Tricks

So, you’ve applied for the trip, and have set up an interview time with Dr. Brundage and Dr. Conway. Congratulations! What now?

The interview:

We want to interview everyone who is coming on this trip. This is for a few reasons: first, we can only take 15 people each year, and we often get 30 or so applicants. That makes our decision really hard! We want to get to know you, your future plans, where you are in school, and whatever else we can so we can actually make an informed decision about who we take down to Trinidad. (I don’t know about you, but I can’t get a good sense of who anyone is from the tiny paragraph they make you write on the application…I’d MUCH rather talk to you in person!).

Second, we’d like to get to know you a little bit. We want to make sure that everyone on the trip meshes, since you will all have to live, work, eat, and be together for a long time, we don’t want to mix in someone that just won’t work with the rest of the group. We want everyone to have the absolute best experience. If we think you’ll work better with next year’s group, we may have you apply again next year. If you can’t apply next year, we’ll do our best to build the group around you. We do our best to meet your needs while meeting the needs of the group. It’s quite the balancing act!

Third, we want to know your future plans and what you hope to get out of the trip. This way we can make sure we do excursions, activities, and research projects that will make the best use of your time. There’s no point coming on a trip that doesn’t give anything back to you, so we want to know what to plan to make this the best trip ever.

Last (but certainly not least!) this interview gives you an opportunity to meet us. Remember that we are going to be traveling for three weeks together, sometimes in stressful circumstances (last year the power and water went out, so we all ended up swimming together in the dark so we didn’t smell. That’s a bonding experience if I’ve ever had one…). We want to make sure that you actually *want* to travel with us as well. I’d much rather you discover you can’t stand us during a 15 minute interview than three days into the trip.

Besides, we really enjoy getting to talk to each one of you one on one! Even if you’ve taken classes from us, we seldom get the chance to talk to students in this way, so it’s a really fun thing to be able to talk to you guys.

We know an interview like this can be stressful. Here are some tips and tricks so you know what to expect and how to best prepare.


Tips and Tricks for the Perfect Interview

1. Don’t stress!

This is easier said than done, I know, but this isn’t a life-or-death thing. Think about it as you just coming to say hi and tell us about yourself a little bit. If you get anxious like me, just tell us that and we’ll do our best to put you at ease. (I’ve also found that I’m much less anxious about situations like this if I have a check list…hence this list of things to do to prepare. :-).

Trust yourself that you know where my office is, how to find us, and that you’ll do fine. (YOU’LL DO FINE! I SWEAR! Just be yourself). I’ll put a map of where to go at the end of this so you know exactly how to get to the interview.

2. Come with some research ideas

This is actually pretty important. We want to bring students that are excited about research, excited about the islands, and ready to hit the ground running. We’ll spend the spring semester helping you refine your ideas, but you have the best chance of getting chosen if you have a bunch of ideas ready to go. We WILL ask you what research you want to do, so take some time to prepare!

If you don’t know where to start, go to the previous research pages on this site. Just skimming through the titles of previous projects may spark some ideas. Read through some of the reports as well (especially on those topics that really interest you) and make a list of ideas to talk to us about. We’ll let you know in the spring what is doable and what isn’t…we just want to see that you’re willing to read and think about stuff before we force you to. That’s the hallmark of a great researcher!


3. Be ready to talk about yourself

We’re going to ask several questions, from the simple “what’s your major?” or “are you an introvert or an extrovert?” to harder ones like “Why, exactly, are you excited about visiting Trinidad?” and “What do you want to get out of this trip?” Those last two questions are open-ended by design…we want to know what you think and how you decided to apply. If you applied just because someone forced you to or it was “expected” of you for some reason or another, this may not be the trip for you. We want to take people that are excited about this opportunity in particular, and are willing to make the most of the opportunity while we are on the island. Show us that and your chances go WAY up!


4. Show us you won’t bring the group down

So, this is one that we’ve started to notice over the last few trips–every once in a while we’ll take someone that is just a downer to the rest of the group. This is someone that doesn’t want to participate in anything, complains about everything from the food to the weather, and generally just moans about the whole thing. (This isn’t to say we don’t want to hear if things are wrong! Far from it. Tell is when something goes wrong!). You know the type–no matter what happens, no matter how much fun everyone else is having, there’s that one person that tries to ruin it for everyone. This is exhausting.

We try to get a sense of how you deal with stressful situations and travel. Are you one of those people up for anything? Are you willing to try new things? If something isn’t perfect, are you willing to laugh about it instead of bitch and moan for the rest of the week? That’s who we want to travel with.

One of our students from last year told us we should be looking for “yes” students…students that are willing to try anything and everything, and then be OK if and when they don’t like the activity so much. We think that’s a GREAT idea, so show us you’re a “yes student” and you will go WAY up on the list!


5. Know your strengths and weaknesses

We try to get a handle on everyone’s personality during these interviews, and we want to choose students who know what they’re good at, what they’re bad at, and when they need help. We would much rather you tell us you don’t know how to do something so we can teach you, rather than you saying you can do something to only mess it up. We WANT you to learn things from this class! We don’t expect you to know everything. If you say you know how to do something, though, we’re going to trust you. That makes it super annoying if you mess it up (or, worse, break the equipment!). Show us how self-aware you are and you’ll be good to go.


6. Know what you’re afraid of (and do it anyway).

Study abroad is about giving you an opportunity to push yourself. We try to create an experience for you that you will never forget. This hopefully means that you will get to try a million new things during the three weeks we’re going to be gone. You’ll get to try all manner of new food types, visit new areas, find new animals and insects, swim in new bodies of water, and meet new people. I know what it’s like to be anxious about all this stuff…every year I have to push through anxiety myself on this trip. That’s what makes it so amazing! We want to see people that understand that being nervous about new things is normal, and they’re willing to push their boundaries. We will NEVER let you be unsafe (that is our entire job!), so we want to see that you are ready and willing to join us on an adventure.


7. Ask questions!

This is a great sign that you’re interested in the trip, and you want to know more. Think about a few questions to ask us. We’re looking for people that have done their due diligence and read about the trip…if you’ve done that you will have questions. Ask away! (Seriously…we make a note on your file if you don’t have any questions…come up with a few and you’ll get a great score).


OK, I think that’s it! If you have any questions, please email me at .

Your interview will take place on West Campus, in the Minnie Belle Heep building, rm 404A in the Department of Entomology

(Note: there is a Heep building on main campus…that’s not where you’re going).

When you get to the building, take the elevators to the 4th floor and turn left. You’ll head through the atrium, past the bathrooms, and to another hallway. Turn left again, and room 404 is the first door on your left. Go inside (the door will be unlocked) and 404A will be the door you see right in front of you. If the main door is locked just knock. If 404A is closed, that means we’re in an interview and we’ll let you know when we’re done.

See you soon!

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