An Open Mind Led Me To An Internship At Duke, And I Couldn't Be More Grateful
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An Open Mind Led Me To An Internship At Duke, And I Couldn't Be More Grateful

After initially struggling to find the "perfect" summer internship, I kept an open mind and got an awesome opportunity at that other school down the road.

An Open Mind Led Me To An Internship At Duke, And I Couldn't Be More Grateful
Gina Decker

Throughout my sophomore year of college, I was constantly in search of a summer internship. It's no secret that internships are often the gateway to future job opportunities. Being almost halfway through college, I felt like I needed to spend the summer building my resume.

Since I want to eventually work in the sports communications industry, I knew that an internship with a college or professional team, league, organization or network would be ideal. However, these internships are HIGHLY competitive and, in many cases, are restricted to rising seniors or recent graduates. As a result, I knew that I would need to aim a little lower this summer and gain experience that would help make me a competitive candidate for these elite internships next summer.

With this resolution in mind, I started searching for a low-key sports communication internship. I sent out countless emails and filled out multiple applications. Nothing ever panned out the way I wanted. In some cases, I didn't get a response at all. In others, I was either rejected or told that no internships were available. Needless to say, I was disappointed and discouraged. As my friends and classmates started announcing where they would be interning this summer, I became more and more concerned that not having an internship would hurt my chances of landing an elite internship next summer. By the beginning of April, I was ready to accept defeat.

About a week later, three executives from Miami Heat visited my sports marketing class to talk about the Heat's Vice Campaign, which stemmed from the introduction of "City Edition" NBA uniforms. After their presentation was over, the executives shared their advice for students wanting to work in the sports industry. One of the speakers mentioned the importance of keeping an open mind and going outside of your comfort zone. He encouraged us to be open to all opportunities, even if they didn't seem like the ideal position due to job descriptions, location and/or pay level. Based on his own experiences, he said that taking advantage of opportunities and being flexible can often open new doors for you and eventually get you where you want to go.

Given my struggle with finding the "perfect" internship, I took his words to heart. After class, I searched through my inbox to find the latest career service emails from the School of Media and Journalism. I found emails from throughout the semester and opened a few of the most recent ones. While I had looked at them before, I usually gave them a quick scan and sent them to the archives if I didn't see anything sports-related. However, this time I read through each description and one internship caught my eye.

The internship was a part-time position at Duke. Most Tar Heels would've been turned off immediately by the "d-word," but I remembered what the gentleman from the Miami Heat told my class. I read further into the description, and while it didn't involve sports, it seemed like the position would provide me with plenty of opportunities to advance my communications skills. As a result, I quickly drafted a cover letter and sent it out with my resume. By the next day, I had already received a response with a request for an interview. I was thrilled to have gotten a response, let alone an interview. I scheduled my interview for later in the week; then I left my interview with an internship!

Now, I spend two days a week at Duke in the Department of Community and Family Medicine with the department's director of communications (who is also a Tar Heel). In just over a month, I've gotten to work on a variety of projects, from writing and copyediting to interviewing and creating digital content. While my work doesn't focus on sports, I know I'm gaining valuable hands-on experience that will help me make the jump to a more elite internship I have my sights on for next summer. Plus, being at Duke has exposed me to a whole new network of people, many of whom are big sports fans and have already offered me some connections within that realm! One of the physicians I interviewed recently even arranged a tour of the Duke football and basketball facilities for me!!

Me with the Duke-UNC Victory Bell in the Yoh Football Center at Duke. The Victory Bell is given to winner of the annual football game between the Blue Devils and Tar Heels. While the Victory Bell has been at Duke since 2016, I am hopeful that it will be painted Carolina Blue again come November!

By keeping an open mind, I finally found an internship that is exciting and already opening new doors for me. I'm making connections, building my portfolio and getting my feet wet in the communications industry, which is another step towards achieving my dream career. Despite being a Tar Heel, I will always be grateful towards Duke for taking a chance on me (and giving me an excuse to wear royal blue without feeling too guilty). I do get a little grief — all in good fun — from my friends, family and co-workers about my mixed allegiances, but this Tar Heel is truly enjoying her time on the "dark side." Who knows, maybe I'll even go back in the future for something sports-related! Every rivalry needs a new twist, right? ;)

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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