Internships in retrospect

Last month, Wilton High School seniors embarked on their internship program at local work sites. The seniors picked a wide variety of locations, from the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History to the Wilton YMCA.
The program has been in place since 2009 and for the past four years has been coordinated by physics teacher Scott Durkee. It gives students an opportunity to experience what a job in their field of interest would be like.
In light of the internship program coming to a close this week, they spoke to The Bulletin about their respective experiences.

Madeline Driver

Wilton senior Madeline Driver spent the past month working at Stamford-based CT Dance Physical Therapy, which specializes in helping dancers, gymnasts, and figure skaters recover from injuries.

Four years ago, Madeline had a spinal fusion to correct her scoliosis, and it was because of this she discovered her would-be internship. She was a steady patient at CT Dance Physical Therapy following her operation to enable her to get back into ballet.
Madeline has long had a passion for dancing, but particularly ballet. “I started when I was four and didn’t really stop because it was so different,” she said. “I loved ballet because it was very athletic, but very artistic at the same time.”
In addition to having been there before, Madeline had another reason for pursuing the internship. “I didn’t want to do an internship in a dance studio, but I wanted to do something related to dance — teaching, something that might help me in my own career.”
She’d expected to “pretty much do a lot of observing — watch and help clean tables, and also do a lot of paperwork.” However, she has ended up doing a fair share of active work.
“It depends on the day,” she said. “Some days I’m in the office all day filing papers and envelopes, other days I’m on the floor. I get heat packs and ice packs. I’ve become more hands-on as I’ve gotten into the internship.”
For Madeline, being there has exposed her to a new environment. “It’s interesting to me because I’ve never been in an office space,” she said. “Aside from learning about patients, and the muscles and bones that are prone to injury in ballet and ice skating, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to just keep a business going.”
When asked if working at the office has influenced her, Madeline responded, “Definitely, it’s actually made me consider the possibility of double-majoring in physical therapy.”
Madeline has aspirations of becoming a professional dancer. Next fall she will attend the University of Utah in Salt Lake City to pursue a degree in ballet performance.

Sophia Shiller

Sophia Shiller has been with Carabiner’s Indoor Climbing in Fairfield for her internship. Carabiner’s is the largest indoor climbing gym in Connecticut, featuring more than 100 top rope stations spread throughout thousands of square feet of bouldering.
Before looking at the list of businesses used by last year’s interns, she had no knowledge of the site. “I didn’t know I had an interest until I saw it was an option,” said Sophia, who ended up selecting it because she “wanted to be able to get some exercise and move around on the job.”
Initially, Sophia was not quite sure what her job would entail. When asked about her expectations, she responded, “I had no idea what to expect. I guess I expected to climb at the gym more than I do.”
A little to her surprise, most of what she does consists of cleaning, advertising, and belaying people, which is the act of fixing a running rope around something to secure it. She’s not able to climb as much herself because “there’s always other work to be done.”
Sophia speaks highly of her experiences at Carabiner’s. “I’ve learned a lot from being an intern here. I learned most of the basic stuff in running a somewhat small business,” she said. “I learned some advertising techniques such as putting flyers on telephone poles, going out to places from Trumbull to Westport to ask people to fill out surveys — and getting rejected a lot.”
Even though it wasn’t as enjoyable, she benefited from doing some maintenance work as well. “Cleaning bathrooms and vacuuming is a pain, but it really needs to be done,” she said. “Any place you go, know that the people behind the scenes that pick up after customers are probably the most important and underappreciated employees.”
“Lastly, I learned that there is always more to learn, whether you’re an intern or the manager of a business,” she added.
Along with other memories, Sophia listed this as one of the “most impactful experiences” of her life. “I met the coolest people I’ve met in my life so far. I’ve learned rock climbing techniques, how to talk to customers so that they know they’re in good hands, how to talk to my bosses so that they know everything will be appropriately taken care of, and how to ask for help when I’m stuck.”
Without this internship, she said she felt as though her life would not be quite the same. “If Wilton High School keeps any of its traditions, I’d say this is the one to keep.” she said. “This gives kids that might not have experienced the real world yet an opportunity to prepare for life.”
With respect to her post-graduation plans, Sophia will take a gap year. She will travel to Spain through two different programs during the first half of the year. Afterwards, she said she will probably be going to other places. Australia and South Africa are on the list.

Gavin Fawcett

Gavin Fawcett opted to do his internship with Untangled in Wilton. The company helps people with technology both on a personal and small-business scale. It provides assistance with home entertainment systems, the convergence of business and personal computing, and other multimedia (combination of text, audio, video, and other content formats).
Gavin had not originally foreseen himself working at Untangled. In fact, there were a few mismatches before he was able to successfully find a job site. “Four other things fell through, but my friend Sam Schmitt recommended it to me,” he said.
Even though he didn’t choose it initially, he said it turned out quite well in the end. “When I found out about it, it seemed interesting to me,” he said. “I gave them a call and they took me.” He was even more glad that it pertained to his area of study, computer engineering.
As someone who likes technology in general, Gavin said he did have some prior interest. “I definitely wanted to know more about stuff like that. I didn’t have any real knowledge about the wiring and networking aspects of electronics.”
He also had a pretty accurate idea as to what kind of work he would be doing. He said he expected to “have the ability to go out on a job site and set up an entire system from scratch, whether an audio or video network.”
Because the company’s work is diverse, Gavin has experienced a variety of tasks. “I’m not really in one set position,” he said. “I’ve been used as an extra set of hands for whoever needs some assistance. It’s a good thing because I get a little taste for everything they do. That includes audio, video networking, exterior lighting, wiring, home automation, and pretty much anything related to home electronics.”
Gavin has found a new appreciation for “the amount work that goes into drilling holes, routing wires, and everything else behind the scenes of some sort of complex computer system.” He said he’d never imagined the immensity of such setups and “how many specific components go into something seemingly minor.”
Almost as if to make up for his initial troubles finding an internship, Gavin was offered a summer job from Untangled. About the senior internship program, he said, “I feel like it’s a good opportunity for those students who are looking to learn, but it’s a bad opportunity for those students who are looking to slack off.”
Gavin will attend Penn State University next fall. He plans to study computer engineering and follow his passion for technology.

Ryan Eberhardt

Ryan Eberhardt has spent the last month as an intern at Arrow Aviation at Danbury Municipal Airport. The company is popular for its rental aircraft and has been serving the greater Danbury area for more than 15 years.
This past Christmas, Ryan’s cousins gave him an “introduction to flight” gift certificate for a half-an-hour session in the air with a flight instructor. It was from that session that Ryan found out about an internship opportunity at the airport.
“I’ve always been interested in planes,” he said. “But, it was probably around sophomore year when I realized that I had to get good grades to actually get into a school for aviation.”
Before he started interning, he said he was told he’d probably be “learning to wash planes, how to fix them, and other basic things about the airport and how it works.” According to him, his expectations have turned out to be true.
“We wash and wax planes as well as move them around the tarmac, which is the area where the planes are parked,” he said. “Other stuff that we do is landscaping. It’s one of the bigger things. We also go around and do weed whacking, grass cutting, weed pulling, and hangar sweeping.”
In addition, he said there’s a lot of paperwork involved. Those generic activities take up about three hours of Ryan’s daily schedule. What remains are those which relate more to the planes.
“I’m probably lucky that I’m able to the move the planes,” he said. “Because you need someone with experience who knows how to do wingwalking, which is when you’re walking alongside the wing while the plane is moving. You make sure that the wings and tail aren’t going to hit anything like other planes or walls.”
Since taking certain actions requires certification, Ryan is limited in what he can do. Despite this, he said he’s benefited greatly. “I’ve learned a good amount. For instance, I’ve learned how to change the brakes and tires on a plane.”
His enlightenment goes beyond knowledge of just the planes themselves, as Ryan has also been exposed to the social side. “Aviation is very expensive, so a lot of the people who keep their planes at the airport are millionaires. You learn how to be courteous and treat people like that with respect.”
For Ryan, this airport experience has only strengthened his passion for aviation. “It’s made me a lot more curious about it,” he said. He hopes the senior internship program will be continued at Wilton.
“I think it should be preserved. Some people don’t look at internship as something really serious,” he said. “For me, though, having the opportunity to go to the airport and learn some new things means a lot.”
Ryan will attend the Florida Institute of Technology next fall, where he plans to major in aeronautical science.

Justin Vincent

Justin Vincent interned at the Norwalk Hospital emergency room. The hospital has more than 500 physicians on its active medical staff and provides a variety of clinical programs and health education classes to local groups and organizations.
Justin was almost too late in getting his internship, but fortunately managed to pull through at the last minute. “Dr. McGovern, who I’m interning with, is a family friend. I reached out to him a bunch of times and he finally responded on the last day before everything was due,” he said with a laugh.
When asked about why he chose the emergency room, Justin explained that he’d been interested in the field for a long time. “It’s a career I definitely want to pursue,” he said. “Since I was young I’ve always wanted to be a doctor.”
Justin has also had the chance to do more than just shadow. “Occasionally Dr. McGovern will let me go in and see the patients and introduce me to them,” he said. “I’ll go back and check with patients to see how they’re feeling and if they need anything.”
In fact, within the first couple of weeks he was placed into what was literally hands-on action. “A man came in having had cardiac arrest and within 20 minutes I was performing CPR on him,” said Justin. Such instances have given him an experience that’s far surpassed his expectations.
“Honestly I thought I was just going to follow him around, but I’m doing so much more than that,” he said. “I’m actually interacting with people and just learning so much. It’s amazing how much you can get from being on a job as opposed to being in a classroom.”
To supplement his on-site work, Justin receives homework assignments from Dr. McGovern in which he looks up diseases and reports back with information. This, coupled with the hospital work, has helped him to learn a lot about the medical field.
Being in the ER has exposed him to all kinds of individuals with many different needs.
Above all, he said he’s learned that “you always have to be on your toes and ready for what comes through the door.”
Justin said the Norwalk Hospital ER has made him rethink his desired career within medicine. “I used to want to be an anesthesiologist or a surgeon, but after seeing this, I definitely want to do this. You never know what’s going to walk through the door and it’s such a thrill.”
Justin will attend Quinnipiac University next fall, where he is looking to pursue his pre-med studies.