The Greatest Internship Ever

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At Penn State University, to receive a degree in Business at the Altoona campus, one must complete a 9-credit-hours internship at/ with a local business of some sort. When presented with this information at the onset of the Fall semester of my senior year, I felt a serious amount of trepidation. Since, as I stated, I was already dead-set on what I’d do with my life, putting on slacks and a button-up shirt and reporting to sit at some desk for 20-45 hours per week was NOT in my plans, for any foreseen stretch of my life.

All the business-major seniors had to register for an actual internship class that actually met once per month. At the beginning, most of us were still finalizing where our internships would be. Later, the class served as the hub to report on internship progress or lack thereof. A Mrs. Cynthia Wood was in charge of the business internship program, and she was one of a few great professors I came across at Altoona. Great because Mrs. Wood actually taught from real-life perspective; that is, she always communicated to us how things would be going once we were OUT OF college, not juts simply feeding us (essentially useless) information as many college professors do.

The wonderful Mrs. Wood, far left.
The wonderful Mrs. Wood, far left.

Luckily, Mrs. Wood acted on my inertia and suggested for me to do an internship that had never been done before: helping a Mr. Sky — Phil Sky —  to promote certain business projects he had dipped into. Phil Sky is a legend of sorts in Altoona, I guess. He’s involved in several businesses — real estate, food distribution, campaign contributions, to name a few  — and he is the man whose name comprises one-half of PSU-Altoona’s beloved  Port-Sky Cafe.

When I met Phil Sky, he explained to me the 3 projects he was working on, one o which I was to tackle as his intern. But I only remember one, vaguely: He was working on some way to promote some product that had something to do with George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act (Side note: Carol Mosely Braun was a guest speaker at Altoona that year and poked fun at the Bush administration by derisively calling it “No Child’s Behind Left”). Anywho, my assignment was to take the product Mr. Sky had and call the education departments of newspapers all over the country, to try and get them to pick up the story and get the product some attention, blah, blah, blah.

(I was really concerned, in writing this, if my apathy for higher education would show through. Let me know if I can do better.)

Thing was, Phil Sky had not done any promotion of said education product before I came along to be his first ever intern, so my work had no standard to live up to. Good news for Dre Baldwin, bad news for Dre’s employer and the PSU-Altoona business internship program.

What I DID do: call about 50 newspapers all over the USA and even get several interested enough to request materials to be mailed out to them.

What I DID NOT do: much more work past than the above stated for the rest of the Spring semester 2004. I worked hard making call after call for about a solid week from the comfort of my apartment. From then on, I basically enjoyed my final months of being a college student and all that position entailed.

As the semester went on, our internship class with Mrs. Wood met weekly and we turned in progress reports on the “real life business experience” we were getting. We also all had to do 20-minute presentations to a board of professors at the end of the semester on our experience. The progress reports and presentation was the easy part for me: I love public speaking and being that Mrs. Wood and Mr. Sky had been the ones pushing me to do this internship, there wasn’t much ball-breaking either could do to confront the fact that I was obviously doing about 25% of the work the other graduating seniors were doing. This was painfully evident during my semester-ending presentation: the outside professors who were asked to sit in and ask questions and help in the grading of the presentations could see that I had basically made no progress and done not much work; Mrs. Wood and Mr. Sky, however, their own reputations on the line, deflected a bevy of tough questions that came my way during the Q&A.

Paradoxically, my roommate, B, was also a senior in the Business major, so he had an internship at the some time as I. B worked in some office somewhere in Altoona that had a business causal dress code and required him to report to work at 8 AM 5 days per week. So while I was in my room sleeping off the previous nights’ Banker’s Club vodka, Madden marathons and rampant debauchery, B was diligently going to work from what might as well have been a 9 to 5 Monday thru Friday. So even though we were roommates, we became like a married couple that works opposite shifts: hardly ever both awake, with free time, simultaneously.

I have to speak on the power of setting one’s mind to a certain ideal and how much it actually comes to fruition if you really concentrate on it. I really did not want to even do an internship, and knowing I had to, I wanted to find one that would require the least amount of effort. And whaddayaknow, I got it. This pattern has played out countless times in my life (the concentration on what I really want, not the lack of effort thing), and if you’ve never tried it, you should.

I gotta hand it to B, though: He played the hand he was dealt, just as I did and would have had I been the one that had to actually work for my 9 credit-hours of internship. Hell, it was a business degree requirement and not graduating was not an option.

Actually, I’m lying. If I had ended up with some tough “Real-Job” internship, I would’ve worked very hard… to circumvent the system and make it work for the level of commitment I had to towards internship in general, which was relatively low. Yeah, that sounds about right.