No summer break for busy student seeking valuable career experience

May 29, 2019

(Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of articles about students in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications completing summer internships.)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For some Penn State students, the end of the traditional academic year means a summer break and perhaps a chance for an internship or part-time job to gain experience and earn some spending money.

For Victoria Koerber, there’s no such break — just a change of location as she works her way through college.

Koerber, a rising senior majoring in advertising/public relations, has secured an unpaid summer internship with ModernMarca, a startup digital marketing and public relations firm based in Boca Raton, Florida. She’ll live with her sister, a student at Florida Atlantic University, about 20 minutes from where their mother and many other family members live.

While a family-focused slow and sunny summer in Florida sounds nice, Koerber rarely slows down. She’ll complement her internship with a summer job, hoping to work as many hours possible.

When school is in session, she balances four jobs, working about 35 hours a week, to pay her way through college.

“I don’t know any of my friends who have multiple jobs, usually it’s just one job and it’s for spending money. There are other people who do not have, or need, a job at all,” Koerber said. “That’s not the case for me, and that’s OK. I’ve always had a job.”

During the recently completed spring semester she had four jobs — a position as a teaching assistant for a science course on campus, a wait staff position at Primanti Bros., a barista at Starbucks, and as an online content writer for an advertising agency.

Koerber credits the TA position for the science course as a big factor in selecting a communications field as her major. She discovered how much she enjoyed interacting with and leading others, and she appreciated the value of conveying a message well.

She initially came to Penn State with a business major in mind, but that hands-on experience as a TA and a core communications class, COMM 260 News Writing and Reporting, made things obvious for her.

“That was the first class where it really clicked for me in terms of real-world skills,” she said.

Koerber started her internship search at the beginning of her junior year, nearly nine months ahead of time, because she was worried about securing a summer spot. After working in noncommunications positions for years, she knew she needed practical experience.

Scholarship support through the Nile D. Coon Trustee Scholarship has lessened some of Koerber’s financial need, but she still needs to work. She has happily and productively combined opportunities in the classroom and beyond at Penn State.

"Growing up my mother and I would kind of roll our eyes about 'those Penn State people,' just because they were so enthusiastic and Penn State over everything else. But, when I really thought about things, I realized that everyone I knew who went to Penn State was successful."

— Victoria Koerber, a rising senior majoring in advertising/public relations

“I actually got a really good scholarship offer to go to another university, but I could kind of see my path there and it was not what I wanted,” Koerber said. “I really didn’t see myself here at first. In fact, growing up my mother and I would kind of roll our eyes about ‘those Penn State people,’ just because they were so enthusiastic and Penn State over everything else.

“But, when I really thought about things, I realized that everyone I knew who went to Penn State was successful. So that certainly played a role in what has been the best possible decision.”

Along with classes and work, Koerber made time to plan for her career. That included visits to internship and job fairs coordinated by the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications — notably an inaugural event in Washington, D.C., last fall. The Bellisario College also hosts similar sessions in New York City and on campus each year.

“Talking to recruiters in Washington, D.C., was a great experience,” Koerber said. “It was my first time doing that, meeting recruiters and finding they were looking for people who were driven. Plus, it was a learning experience about how to talk about myself and my work ethic.”

She had plenty to talk about, and there’s a good chance that startup firm in Florida will gain an appreciation of her skills this summer as well.

Last Updated May 29, 2019