By Emily Wells

Many Montreat College students use their summer break from school to prepare for life after college, participating in internships and learning new skills in their field. Two Montreat students, Abigail Kernahan and Madeline Sides, secured high-level internships this summer and I talked with them about their summer internship experiences and what it was like to gain “real world” experience.

Kernahan, a senior, is an outdoor education major preparing to graduate in December. She worked at The Biggest Loser Resort in Java, New York. The resort’s mission is to provide clients battling weight issues with a life-changing experience through their five-point philosophy of fitness, nutrition, education, relaxation, and camaraderie. Kernahan worked at the resort as a workout assistant. Some of her tasks included helping lead early morning workouts, leading small day hikes at Letchworth State Park, and attending various dietary seminars. She also instructed clients on how to properly use workout equipment, as well as leading early morning workouts in strength and conditioning.

Kernahan spent four weeks interning at The Biggest Loser. “My favorite part of the internship was getting to know all of the clients and learning their stories and struggles that they have had in their life,” she says. “Getting to know them on a more personal level made it easier for me to communicate with them. My supervisors, Heather and Theresa, were two of the most impactful people that I met. Both of them had gone through beautiful weight loss journeys and would tell you that the number on the scale means nothing. It’s a just a number that sits there.” Although her internship did not directly correlate with her major, Kernahan says she learned many valuable lessons, such as eating healthier and how to create quick, on the go meals that are still healthy choices.

Madeline Sides, a junior cybersecurity major, participated in a competitive, 12-week internship at Ingersoll Rand in Davidson, North Carolina. Ingersoll Rand is a diversified industrial manufacturer with market-leading brands such as Trane, Thermo King, and Club Car. Sides worked in the Cyber Department at Ingersoll Rand on the incident response team. She executed and learned how to dissect malware when something malicious came in, pull files from computers, track and identify hackers and where attacks came from, and perform risk assessments.

At Ingersoll Rand, Sides was able to practice her skills from the classroom in the real world. “Working at Ingersoll Rand this summer was valuable because I was able to gain real world experience and see how dangerous technology can be and how bad people’s intentions can mess it up,” she explains. “It also showed the business side of security and why a business should be secure. A business’s main purpose is not security; security is an aid to carrying out its real purpose.” Sides was also able to learn from professionals in her field. “My superiors ranged from former FBI and CIA workers to military cybersecurity. I was able to learn a lot from them. I also was able to work with others my age who were developing new technology and that was really rewarding.”

These are just two of many Montreat students who were able to see a glimpse of their futures this summer. Both recommend their internships to underclassmen. Students who are seeking more information about internships and life after college should also visit the Thrive Center in Bell Library on Montreat College’s main campus in Montreat.