At the beginning of sophomore year of college, I switched my major to public relations. It was then I realized I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Don’t get me wrong, I did well in my classes and was enjoying what I was learning, I just didn’t know what I was supposed to do with everything I was learning. So, I went on the hunt for an internship. I ended up finding a public relations and events internship with Victory Sun and immediately applied (after spending days stressing over my resume and cover letter, of course). When I got an email asking for an interview, I literally jumped and squealed in the Starbucks lobby I was studying in (much to the other patrons’ frustration). I was finally figuring things out and heading down the right track. Little did I know what the universe had in store for me.
In-person classes were cancelled.
The dorms were shut down.
And I had to move back into my family home with my nine siblings and parents.
So, you could say things weren’t going quite as planned. And that was only the beginning. My interview was postponed and then changed to a virtual call, a call I had to do while in my mother’s home office with children fighting each other with wooden swords in the background. Needless to say, that wasn’t the interview any of us had imagined, but we pushed through and I ended up getting the position. As ecstatic as I was about the opportunity, I was equally as anxious. COVID-19 was causing countless other internships to be cancelled or switched to remote. I had no idea what would happen to mine.
In the end, it thankfully wasn’t cancelled, but it was modified. We started with video call meetings and doing work from home until we were finally allowed to come to the office. We were able to alter our work in a way that was both educational for me and my fellow intern, and effective for our clients. While the pandemic did continue to influence the work I was doing, it did not stop me from being able to do it all together.
Unfortunately, the universe was quick to punch back. I commuted an hour and fifteen minutes to the office. Apparently, my car was not prepared for this kind of commute. On my way home one day, the fuel tank decided to partially fall out of the car. Yep, you read that right. The very thing that keeps the car moving was no longer attached to my car. To make matters worse, I ended up scraping the tank to the point that there was a fist size hole. So not only was the car sending up sparks, it was also leaking very flammable gasoline as I drove, blissfully unaware, listening to my audiobook.
The car issues didn’t stop there. A week later, when I was about halfway to work with my shiny new fuel tank, my tire blew. This would normally be a quick fix, however my now-flat tire refused to come off. Go figure. I had to get it towed to a nearby auto repair shop that was not able to work on the car for another four hours. Now, four hours may not sound like a long time to some people, but to a young woman in heels in an unfamiliar town, it most definitely is. By the time the car was finished, the work day was over. Clearly, I did not make it into the office.
I did, however, make it the next day. And the next day. And every day after. There were countless other little hiccups along the way: getting lost in Indianapolis, running out of gas, getting locked out of the office, nearly getting trapped in the elevator (multiple times), not being able to find the stairs on my first day, and then getting locked out of the stairs on my second day. Even so, I continued going to my internship and learning. Throughout the internship, I experienced the importance of adaptability and reimagination. When your situation changes, you can’t continue to work in the same way you did before; there has to be some adaptation to the new situation. At Victory Sun, we constantly worked to redefine events and communications within our new reality. We conducted in-depth research of other events and analyzed the various components that were constantly changing. However, analyzing only got us so far. We needed to reimagine events and communications, which involved a lot of creativity. We worked both linearly and nonlinearly (which was very much out of my comfort zone) in an attempt to see the situation from every perspective and create effective solutions.
I wrote, read, designed, researched, chatted, networked, laughed, and thought every single day. The skills I gained were not just applicable to public relations. They are skills I was able to test on the side of the road. Skills that help me lead an event-based student organization in the time of COVID-19. Skills that allow me to think up ways to keep my quarantined siblings entertained. And they are worth every mishap and adventure along the way.
Did my internship turn out the way I thought it would? No, but I am sure you would be hard pressed to find anything that did this summer. That does not change the fact that, even with the modifications, I was still able to learn and figure things out. I began this summer unsure of what the universe had in store for me, and, while there is still uncertainty, I know I am on the right path and that I can push through regardless of what obstacles stand in my way.
All right Universe, I’m ready for the next round.
Julia Tharp is a junior at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She is double majoring in public relations and sociology with a minor in theatre. In her free time, Tharp can be found diving into a new read, scheming unique events, or belting along to Broadway hits. She hopes to continue living in a world of stories and wishes to one day work in public relations for the publishing industry. Connect with her on LinkedIn.