Undergraduate Internship Spotlight: Sophia Nelson, King County Metro Transit, Winter-Spring 2019

Sophia Nelson on public transportation in New York City

Capping off UW geography major Sophia Nelson's senior year, an internship with King County Metro Transit couldn't have come at a better time! While Sophia applied to be an intern with King County Metro last spring, perseverance and patience paid off when the current position became available this winter! Now, Sophia is "developing a geodatabase for community assets, and helping to conduct spatial analysis to determine equity impacts of transit planning projects around King County." Here, Sophia shares more about the experience of connecting the geography major to potential careers through this internship!

A “day-in-the-life”: "Every day at my internship is unique, because I have different tasks and projects that I will be working on at any given time. Depending on the day, I might attend staff meetings, or have one-on-one's with my supervisors or project leaders. At my desk, most of my work time is spent working with ArcMap and Excel. So far, some of the tasks I have been assigned include assessing datasets for validity, creating and organizing geodatabases and feature classes, populating attribute tables in GIS, geocoding addresses, creating walksheds using network analyst, and proofreading reports. Most of my work has been GIS-related, but there are many opportunities for other kinds of work as well."

Connections with coursework: "I have found many connections between my coursework in geography and the work I am doing in my internship. The hard skills I have learned in GIS courses, including data management and spatial analysis skills, apply directly to my internship. What was a surprise to me, however, was how many connections there would be between my theory-based geography classes and my internship. For example, many concepts that I learned in courses such as the Geography of Cities [GEOG 277] and Urban GIS [GEOG 461] helped me to understand the bigger ideas behind transportation planning and why the work that I am doing is important. Knowing the structures and processes that have shaped our cities over time has helped me to understand the importance of equitable transportation options for urban populations. Because of this, I believe that my coursework in geography -- along with my other related coursework in departments across the UW -- has effectively prepared me for an internship in transportation planning."

Advice for others: "To any geography students who want to get involved in this kind of work: just apply to as many internships as you can! Some jobs are competitive, but there are so many different opportunities out there, especially for GIS-related work. In my experience, employers will recognize that students don't have very much experience and want to provide us with as many opportunities to learn as possible. Internships are a great way to figure out what career path you want to pursue, because they allow you to explore different interests and learn skills within a short-term commitment."

What’s next? "From my experience so far, I plan to explore more aspects of transportation planning in future internships, and I am considering it as a potential career. I want to continue to learn how GIS can be used to plan equitable and sustainable cities, both in transportation planning as well as other aspects of urban planning."