By Chris Reimer – Over the past decade, real-world experience has become increasingly important to employers as they make hiring decisions from the pool of recent graduates. Internships, self-designed projects, travel, study abroad, and other experiential learning carry significant importance. Discerning students recognize this trend as they craft summer plans.
The summer between my sophomore and junior years was spent in Los Angeles interning for TOMS (yes that shoe company that does that “weird one-for-one giving thing”). My experience at TOMS was life changing, and gave me an insiders view of a high-profile and socially-conscious company.
To broaden and deepen my experience, I then entered a fall internship at Children’s Mercy Hospital and a spring internship with a local venture capital firm. This past summer the social media gods were on my side, as I successfully landed an internship with Rolls-Royce via a stab in the dark on LinkedIn.
Going from organic, relative upstart TOMS Shoes to sophisticated, aerospace power-systems world-leader Rolls-Royce was an object lesson in contrast. One moment I’m supporting grassroots marketing for products that provide shoes and sight-saving surgeries to children in developing countries, and the next moment I’m working on analytical market forecasts to help a company develop an engine for the future of aerial warfare.
One summer I’m in sunny Los Angeles long-boarding to work in sandals and shorts, and the next I’m commuting into downtown Indianapolis with my daily cup of coffee sporting my newly acquired collection of dress shirts and ties. While I enjoyed the work-life balance and culture of TOMS, I learned more in my role at Rolls-Royce than I could have ever dreamed. I developed new skills, honed my professionalism and executed meaningful projects. One of my main projects, a large-scale, market based, price analysis of the turboshaft, turboprop and turbofan engine markets, was presented to the President of Defense at Rolls-Royce, and by the end of my tenure had forwarded to Rolls-Royce offices around the world.
While Rolls-Royce was an incredibly powerful experience, my summer didn’t end there. With a few open weeks remaining before returning to classes on the Hill, I made the decision to venture abroad.
With one backpack of clothes, my camera and my girlfriend Rachel by my side, I hopped on a plane for a brisk 21-day trip through Europe. Our first stop was Reykjavik, Iceland. Fresh seafood chowders, spectacular waterfalls, cozy Icelandic coffee shops and breath-taking natural scenery made Iceland my favorite stop on the trip.
From Iceland we travelled to London, where historic tours and exploring open-air markets consumed most of our time. Our next stop was Edinburgh, Scotland, where upon arrival, we discovered we had fortuitously scheduled our visit during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Google it, it’s impressive). Besides the Fringe Festival, Rachel and I enjoyed a free walking tour of the city and a grueling hike to Arthur’s Seat to overlook the city and the ocean.
Paris was next on our list. During our three days in the City of Light, we enjoyed visits to the Palace of Versailles, Notre Dame, The Louvre, Roland Garros (for the tennis player in me), the Arc De Triumphe, the Gardens of Luxemborg, and even concluded one of our days with a picnic and sunset viewing at the Eiffel Tour.
Exhaustion from constant travel had set in by the end of Paris, but Switzerland was calling our name and our flights weren’t going to wait for us to recharge. In Switzerland we visited Luzern and Zurich. If there is one thing that I will always remember about Switzerland, it’s the prices. The $40-$50 meals were taking a toll on my penny-pinching personality; however, the phrase, “you get what you pay for” held true in Luzern.
The scenery was nothing short of miraculous. Clean sapphire lakes, cozy Swiss villages nestled in the crevasses of towering mountain peaks and the constant chorus of cowbells ringing throughout the mountains was quintessential Switzerland. From Zurich, we boarded a flight for Berlin, Germany.
Berlin was another favorite, as the self-proclaimed culture capital of Europe did not disappoint. During a walking-tour of the city, we saw frequent signs of the profound effects of World War II. A visit to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp outside of Berlin cast a somber blanket of emotion on our first day. Fortunately, not all of our time in Berlin was spent focusing on that tragic time in history. Refreshingly, Rachel and I also enjoyed new and diverse cuisine, sampling fresh German beer and taking in the abundant street art.
Our final stop was Dublin, Ireland. On our first day we explored the city and learned about the history and culture of the Irish people. Trips to the Dublin Castle, Grafton Street, Trinity College, Temple Bar and the Guinness Factory made for one exhausted couple. Our final hoorah in Europe was spent roaming the countryside of Ireland. The green grass, grazing sheep, medieval castles and handcrafted stonewalls inspired reflection on times of yore. Eventually, our trip concluded at the Cliffs of Moher on the western coast of Ireland. Peering over the edge of the cliffs, while dangerous, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. What I saw provoked a newfound respect for the beauty, and the preeminence of nature.
So what has my summer of travel and interning taught me? Well… that I still have no clue of what I want to do with my life! Though my future may be blurry, I am grateful for the life that I was able to lead this summer. With the help of my Jewell Journey Grant and the opportunities, leadership skills and knowledge that I’ve gained at Jewell, I was able to secure the internship with Rolls-Royce and travel abroad in the same summer. No matter what I decide to do after I graduate in May, I know that my education and real-world experiences have prepared me for what is to come. While I’m excited for the next chapter in my life, I think I’ll focus on enjoying my last two semesters under Jewell’s protective wing.