my internship experience

Megan Ruggiero '10 is an English major from Merrimack, N.H. She is a peer tutor at the Student Learning Collaborative, an Admissions tour guide, treasurer of the Colby-Sawyer Players, match secretary for the women's rugby team, and active in other campus organizations. She spent the summer of 2008 as a public relations intern at Nashua Community College.

What have you done in previous summers?

Last summer, I worked at Manchester Community College in the Workforce Development Center, where I basically just typed up contracts and made sure that the non-credit classes were all in order for the following semester. My time there had little to do with my career goals, and that is why I did not associate it with the required internship for my major. In past summers, I had pretty typical “teenager jobs,” such as babysitting, cashiering, and worst of all, working in the fast-food industry.

How did you find this internship?

My mother works at Nashua Community College and told me that the programs information officer and head of marketing, Colby-Sawyer alumna Dawn Kilcrease '96, was interested in taking me on in the newly created intern position in her department. I filled out the application and Dawn came to interview me at Colby-Sawyer. Dawn and I had a great time discussing changes that have occurred on campus over the years. She was very happy to hear that we still have Mountain Day! By the end of the day, I was officially hired.

NCC is literally ten minutes from my house, which was convenient and affordable, considering the high gas prices this summer. My mom and I even carpooled a few times a week, despite our slightly different hours. I ended up working close to 370 hours, way over the 120-hour requirement for the internship.

What were your most important duties and responsibilities as an intern?

My most important duty was writing human interest stories for college publications. One, on a massage therapy student, was published in the fall course schedule. Another on a nursing student was published in The Union Leader in September. Writing press releases became another responsibility as the weeks passed. While Dawn was completing the course catalog, I made sure the newspapers were kept up to date on all the college's happenings. I also edited numerous documents - from the student handbook to a pamphlet on service learning, I was always prepared to pull out my red pen and fix typos.

What skills were required to fulfill this internship?

I think the skill that helped most was my ability to bring someone else's story to life. I have been writing for my own enjoyment since I was old enough to hold a pen, and I was very happy to apply that skill to a real-world situation. A less technical skill that was important was determination. There were some assignments that did not come easy for me, and I just gritted my teeth and pushed through to the best of my ability. There were days I was so frustrated I could have cried, but I just mustered a smile and stayed positive in the face of adversity. I took pride in being able to make people laugh.

How does this internship intersect with your studies at Colby-Sawyer?

The internship fit nicely into my major course of study, and I am interested to see how the actual marketing aspects of my internship will fall into my coursework as I start taking business classes. Media Criticism with Professor Meade, and my Pathway seminars with Professor Stecker, really helped me fulfill my intern duties. Studying advertising trends was key to understanding the job, but my Pathway seminars allowed me to express myself in writing in ways I never thought possible. I found my style evolving every day, and feeling confident in my writing certainly helped me thrive at NCC.

What challenges did you face, and what triumphs did you enjoy, during your internship?

My first day on the job, I felt like my mouth was sealed shut. I was incredibly shy and feeling overwhelmed. Dawn started spouting all her ideas about my time there and the list seemed endless - I began to feel I had a lot of expectations to live up to. Dawn knew I was getting a quality education at Colby-Sawyer, and my grades were all the evidence she needed to know that I was going to be a hard worker and dedicated temporary employee of the college.

My best day on the job was definitely during the commercial shoot on our campus. I had so much fun filling in as a “student,” and seeing a real camera crew at work was downright spectacular. It was a nice perk, and I even enjoyed wearing the professional make-up.

My worst day on the job actually became my worst three days on the job. Editing the student handbook was a complete nightmare. I had a lot of trouble working in Adobe In-Design, a software program used to create and format larger documents. Since Dawn was so busy, I found myself doing plenty of self-teaching. I think I had a headache for those three days, but the pain ended up paying off and early on we heard compliments on how finely-tuned the document turned out.

What have you learned during your internship that might be useful in your professional life?

Though the internship was not in the exact career field I am aiming for, it has certainly prepared me to enter the workforce. I was able to practice writing professional pieces, and now I know what to do to pitch a story. I never actually knew what a press release was until I started working at NCC.

I am also able to admit that I have a whole new outlook on community colleges. I am slightly ashamed to admit that I never looked at community college students with the same respect as I did students enrolled in four-year programs. As I interviewed NCC students, though, I began to understand the appeal of an Associate Degree. All the students emphasized the affordability of NCC and the ease of transferring to four-year colleges afterward. The students I talked with were intelligent, goal-oriented individuals, and I will never forget them.

When someone asks about my internship, I always tell them, “I worked hard, because I wanted to get as much out of the experience as I possibly could. When it ended, all I wanted to do was sleep away the last two weeks of summer!”

Often I can't find the right words to describe my experience, but I know I have changed for the better because of it. A lot of my friends and family members have told me that I walk taller, sit with better posture, and have become a more talkative person. I am no longer afraid to communicate with new people. The job really forced me to take on a more outgoing demeanor. Plus, my mom is happy that I have accompanied her on multiple shopping trips over the course of the summer. I actually own a suit now, which is light years away from my usual outfit of fleece sweatpants and a free t-shirt from a Colby-Sawyer sporting event!

Did this internship confirm or alter your career plans?

Though I enjoyed the experience for what it was, I don't really see myself taking on a marketing position at a community college. My calling has always been publishing; I want to work with writers, because literature has been a huge part of my life. From the moment I was able to read, I knew I couldn't be away from books for too long. Plus, the more I am exposed to the techniques of brilliant writers, the better a writer I will become. My passion is fiction, and it would have taken an internship in, well, probably Heaven, to change that.

Is Colby-Sawyer's requirement of completing an internship beneficial?

Of all Colby-Sawyer's course requirements, I think the internship is the most beneficial. I received real-world experience and was able to apply skills I learned in the classroom to my assignments at work. I feel like I am prepared to seek employment after college, and that is new. I always told myself, “Megan, you're good at studying. Too bad you can't study for a living.” Now, I know where I am headed, and that gives me both comfort and confidence.