Alysha Daytner, a May 2008 Purdue University graduate with a degree in Public Relations and Advertising, provides the following insights from her experience as an intern at the 2008 Summer Olympics. I’ve already asked Alysha to write another guest post at the end of her once-in-a-lifetime internship. Alysha is pictured below (center) with other interns in the balcony of the velodrome, which is the site of track cycling events. Christina Harp, another 2008 Purdue graduate with a degree in Agricultural Communications, is pictured at the far right.
Alysha Daytner: On my path to a career in Public Relations, I’ve taken a few chances. But nothing yet compares to the chances I took to get here; I’m in Beijing, China, working with international media agencies at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
In October 2007, as a senior at Purdue University studying Public Relations and Advertising, I knew that a summer in China would perhaps derail my post-graduation plans. But when the opportunity to work as an intern at the Games presented itself through Purdue’s Study Abroad programs, I took it. In late March 2008, after several months of applications, training and interviews, fourteen Purdue students accepted the chance to be part of something bigger than we could understand. We were headed to the Olympics.
In those months between turning in my initial application and the day the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad gave me the good news, I rearranged my entire post-graduation plans. I got advice from several people I knew in the Public Relations field and their sentiment was the same. Without question, they told me to go to the Olympics; the rest would all work out.
I arrived in China on July 5 with a vague idea of what my job might entail and notion of what communication and cultural barriers would be. It didn’t take long for that to all be replaced. Nothing I could have ever estimated would compare to the reality of being in an Olympic city. The planning, the PR, the change in the entire city’s communication has astounded me from the moment I arrived. It seems as though every person knows their exact role in relation to the Games.
After one month in Beijing I have a much better idea of what my role is for the Olympics. I am working at the Laoshan Cycling Cluster, which is the cluster of three cycling venues where Mountain Bike, Track Cycling and BMX events will be held. My job is specifically to work with photographers from international news agencies (such as Getty Images, AP, AFP and Reuters) assisting them as they work at the venues. There are only four native English-speakers in the Photography department so a great deal of my responsibility is to also assist the Chinese workers with their English communication skills.
One of the greatest lessons so far is that at an international event such as this, the potential to meet important people is remarkable. On a daily basis I work with several accomplished journalists from all over China and an expert on media photography from Australia. In a more serendipitous moment, I met the manager for all Getty Images photographers at the Olympics. Most people in the PR field understand the importance of connections and how they can happen at the most unexpected times, this experience has solidified that even more for me. Treat everyone you meet as if they are the next important person in where you want to go in your career.
Another insight I can offer is that this experience may not seem to be exactly what I want to do with the rest of my PR career, but I have taken from it several things just by observing on my own. Other than working at an Olympic venue, I have an inside perspective of how the PR efforts for the Beijing Olympics have been put in place. I have immediate experience with cross-cultural communication and have taken so much more from my position than just working as a Photography Assistant. Ask enough questions and keep your eyes open and you will turn any experience into one that works for you.