International student acclimates to Penn State and her virtual internship

July 01, 2020

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

When Domino Geddes arrived at Penn State in August 2018, there was no specific to-do list for the classroom or other activities.

She was 17 years old and had been striving for most of the previous half decade just for the opportunity to attend a school in the United States. Adapting was not easy — even for the driven, upbeat student from Edinburgh, Scotland.

“For the first week, hardly anybody could understand a word I was saying unless I really took my time,” Geddes said. “My accent hadn’t been Americanized, and I sounded like Shrek.”

Still, Geddes rarely lets a barrier, be it the Atlantic Ocean or unfamiliarity in different educational culture, slow her down. After years at a boarding school in her home country, her family was supportive of a move to the United States for college.

She selected Penn State just a few months before the fall semester began. A brief tour of higher education options in the northeast concluded in April 2018 at the University Park campus, and Penn State left a big impression on the entire family — including her younger brother, who was then 14.

“Everyone knew. Everyone could feel it,” she said. “We were in a hotel room after the campus visit just talking and he said, ‘If you go to another school, you’ll regret not choosing Penn State, and if you go to Penn State, you won’t regret it.’”

So never mind a simple to-do list, Geddes has embraced every opportunity she could find at Penn State.

A rising junior, she’s pursuing a telecommunications major in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. She’s also pursuing a minor in entrepreneurship and innovation, and an undergraduate certificate in labor and human resources in the College of the Liberal Arts.

Her activities and membership include: CommAgency, the student-driven production agency in the Bellisario College; VALLEY Magazine; and Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda, where she serves as a member of the standards board.

She does not see barriers, just opportunities, and she certainly feels at home.

“If you give up your culture and life and go to the center of Pennsylvania, you have to be willing to really make it your own,” she said. “I love Pennsylvania. How could you not like it?”

She knows she’s not a stereotypical or traditional international student, and little about what Geddes has done in two-plus years at Penn State has been traditional, including her latest challenge — a summer internship with a Los Angeles-based management and production company that she’s completing from her home in Scotland.

When students moved off campus because of the coronavirus in March, Geddes returned to Scotland. A little later she interviewed with Lee Stollman, a production executive and manager at The Gotham Group, for a position as a literary management and production intern with the company.

“They always ask if you have any questions. I asked him about his ideal candidate, and he read me back my resume. That was a pretty good feeling."

— Domino Geddes, junior telecommunications major in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications

“They always ask if you have any questions. I asked him about his ideal candidate, and he read me back my resume,” Geddes said. “That was a pretty good feeling. Two weeks later I got an offer by email and by that time the borders were shut.

Domino Geddes at map

Domino Geddes arrived at Penn State from her home in Scottland as a 17-year-old freshman, and she's made the most of many opportunities at the University.

IMAGE: Photo Submitted

“I was stuck in Scotland, but I obviously accepted the position immediately.”

Again, seeing no barriers, Geddes was ready to return to the United States and work for the Hollywood-based company in person. “I wanted to accept the risk, but everyone told me that wasn’t possible,” she said.

Instead, Bob Martin, the assistant dean for internships and career services in the Bellisario College, helped Geddes navigate options and paperwork.

“Only a minority of international students do internships in the U.S. Plus, the internship was not virtual when it was offered, so there were a lot of things that had to be worked out,” she said. “Bob Martin was great, making it all happen, and I basically have become the Bellisario College guinea pig for how we’re going to navigate these waters for international students.”

Challenges clearly do not phase Geddes. Separated by several time zones, she works three days a week at the internship — from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. “It’s no big deal,” she said. “It means I get to sleep in and stay up late. That’s not bad.”

She attends staff meetings, listening as projects get reviewed and hearing others discuss movie production progress or pitch scripts. She enjoys observing as staff members bounce ideas off each other and hone things while working together, even at a physical distance.

Her duties include reviewing books and scripts, providing coverage and leading her own pitches. Expectations include a script review every five days and a book review every 10 days, with multiple happening at the same time.

In order to provide the best coverage and context, she’ll read everything she gets at least twice.

“Along with coverage that informs the company’s decisions, they’ve said one thing we’re going to learn is how to pitch your coverage,” she said. “Everyone has told me you have to sell yourself in the industry. So pitching seems like a good way to grow and learn.”

The internship runs until Aug. 12, and by that point Geddes hopes to be back in the United States, getting ready for a fall semester on campus.

She has a paid position at CommAgency for the upcoming academic year, and she can already envision her return “home.”

“When you arrive in Philadelphia at the airport, you come down the escalator and see that big American flag,” she said. “I can’t wait for that, and then to get back to campus.”

 

Last Updated July 01, 2020