my internship experience

Colin Bellavance '09, a Sport Management major and Business Administration minor from Dudley, Mass., spent two months of the summer as a sports and recreation program specialist at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, Conn. The residential camp serves children between the ages of seven and 15 who suffer a variety of illnesses.

At Colby-Sawyer, Bellavance is president of the Class of 2009, plays on the men's soccer team, is an admissions tour guide, and serves with the New London Fire Department as a volunteer firefighter.

How did you find this internship opportunity? What was the application process like?

I was a cabin counselor at Hole in the Wall over the summer of 2007 and knew that I wanted to return. I was fortunate to have my position at the camp count toward the internship requirement. The application process was quite extensive due to the notoriety of the camp and its founder, Paul Newman. Each year about 400 people submit applications for the 80 spots, so it is very competitive. The camp provided housing and meals for me.

What were your most important duties as an intern?

I was required to program and plan recreational activities on a daily basis for children between the ages of seven and 15. Some activities needed to be adapted for some of our campers who had an illness or physical limitation. This proved to be the most challenging component of the internship, but it was also the most rewarding in that I learned a great deal about creating activities for everyone.

What skills were required to fulfill this internship?

I was required to have my First-Aid and CPR certifications. I also was required to attain my high and low ropes elements site certification, which the camp provided.

How does this internship intersect with your studies at Colby-Sawyer?

I found that my education at Colby-Sawyer had a tremendous impact on how I presented myself in a professional setting. I value the courses that have placed high importance on effective communication skills. My Writing 105 class prepared me for writing clearly and effectively, which is essential in a professional setting. I was required to submit a written assessment of each week to my site supervisor and I was confident that my writing skills were where they needed to be in for that task.

I took Philosophy and Ethics of Sport with Professor Russell Medbery, and that helped me a great deal during this internship. That class changed the way I look at sport and what constitutes something as sport. Because I was dealing with such a wonderful and unique population of children, I realized that really anything can be considered sport, and that any activity can be adapted to meet the needs of its participants.

What challenges did you face, and what triumphs did you enjoy, during your internship?

My biggest challenge was creating and adapting activities to meet the needs of all our campers. Many of them were faced with physical limitations, but what I realized during the internship is that there is no such thing as “normal” activity, there is simply activity that has been done the same way for a long time. When you introduce a game that has never been done before, and you have ill children participating together, who's to say that isn't normal? It doesn't matter what the game is called, how it's played, or what the rules are, it's the simple fact that a group of children come together, struggle together, and triumph together. This experience was truly eye opening for me. From the very first day, I was filled with excitement but also nervousness. Through the summer my nerves settled, and I began to really run away with ideas for activities and games. I was able to laugh and have fun all summer, while learning a great deal about the sports and recreation field.

When you talk to your friends and family about your internship, what do you tell them?

Because the camp serves such a wonderful population of children, it is very hard to put into words all of the amazing moments I experienced. So, I will share with you what the cam director always says, which is, “We get to dance on the edge of life and death and say, hey lets have some fun.” It's a short but powerful message that truly signifies the magic and spirit of the camp.

Do you think this internship will lead to employment with the company after graduation?

I plan to become a professional firefighter, but in the time it takes me to complete various certifications and tests for the fire service, I hope to find a youth recreational coordinator position or youth counseling position and use the skills I learned through the internship.

Is Colby-Sawyer's requirement of completing an internship beneficial?

The internship process is an integral part of the Colby-Sawyer experience. It allows students an opportunity to network and provides a great learning experience in a professional setting. I feel that the internship requirement has a direct correlation to the success of students after their time at Colby-Sawyer.