Nine University of Notre Dame students spent the latter half of their summer as interns for NBC at the Beijing Summer Olympic Games.
Seniors Claire Hutchinson, Jace Hopper, Erin Murphy, Kevin Smith and Mark Weber; juniors Stephanie Parks, Kevin Snyder and Aidan Gillespie; and sophomore Catherine Flynn were selected to serve on a team of 100 American interns for the television network.
Notre Dame was selected as one of only six university recruiting sites. Students applied for internships last fall and Notre Dames Career Center reports there was a great deal of interest and a high number of applications. The Career Center gave a workshop about interview preparation, inviting John Heisler, senior associate athletic director, to speak to perspective interns.
Gillespie, a political science and urban studies major, was a runner for NBCs swimming and diving coverage. He managed to see almost every swimming and diving eventincluding Michael Phelpseighth victoryand even to direct two unaired swimming heats.
“To sit in the chair, look at all the big screen televisions surrounding you, and call out which camera angles to use was one of the best experiences of my internship,” Gillespie said.
Weber, a Program of Liberal Studies and film, television and theatre major, worked at the boxing venue. Working production for all 272 fights meant he did not get the chance to see many other events, but as a four-year boxer at Notre Dame and current president of Bengal Bouts, Weber said his assignment was a “perfect fit”.
Both Parks and Smith were loggers, meaning they recorded events and helped producers and editors find clips for television coverage. Parks covered indoor volleyball while Smith was assigned to the Flash Unit, which followed shorter events like road cycling, BMX biking, whitewater kayaking and the triathlon.
“It was really exciting getting to work on something new every few days,” Smith said.
While the interns were enthusiastic about witnessing the sporting events, it was the experience of the Olympics in China that really seemed to capture their attention.
Parks remarked upon the importance of the Olympic Games as a transition for the nation.
“I witnessed the beginning of a new era for China, especially Beijing,” she said. “The capital city transformed itself and, teeming with friendly faces from around the world, proved to be a fantastic host.”
Most interns, Gillespie said, did get the chance to see some tourist destinations like the Great Wall, the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven. What he appreciated more, however, was exploring Bejing itself.
“Most people quickly identified us as Americans and asked to take pictures with us,” Gillespie said, “I guess Westerners are still a rare sight in China, but it was still a little odd to think that we will be in the photo albums of a few local Chinese families.”
Parks felt “extremely welcome” as an American and said many Chinese students expressed dreams to visit our country. Smith said many English-speaking Chinese asked about his impressions of China and the Olympics, and they would “glow with pride” when he praised the city.
In reflecting on their experiences, students praised the Universitys increased presence in China that made their internships possible.
“The University is making huge strides to increase its presence in China under the guidance of Professor Noble,” Smith said, referring to Jonathan Noble, the advisor of the Asia Initiative in the Office of the Provost, who Susan Thorup, program manager of internship development at the Career Center, said was “instrumental” in bringing NBC to Notre Dame.
“I’m sure hell do a great job improving the relations between the University and China over the next few years,” Smith said.
Many interns expressed feelings similar to Gillespie, who said he is “taking back a sense of respect for the world” that he “didn’t quite have before.” He emphasized the importance of learning more about China.
“We really should concerntrate on the worlds fastest developing nation and how it has grown,” he said. “China is such a fascinating mix of urban and rural, rich and poor, that we would be wise to investigate its development and improve relations.”