Imagine spending the summer in sunny Florida in one of America’s most popular theme parks all while getting paid and furthering your career. This was the reality of Shippensburg University alumna Whitney Yeager.
Yeager, a 2013 graduate, spent the summer before her senior year in Orlando, Fla., interning at SeaWorld.
A Chambersburg native, Yeager applied for the internship half-jokingly after visiting SeaWorld for the first time in January 2012.
“I just fell in love with SeaWorld. When I got home it was around the time I was looking for internships,” she said. “I never thought I could move to Orlando for the summer. I applied for an animal training internship as a joke. I told myself ‘I’d love to do this but I’m never going to get it.”
Despite her doubts, she got a call from SeaWorld three weeks later.
This led to two phone interviews and while SeaWorld did not offer her an animal training internship, she was offered a theme park internship, which she gladly accepted.
“I got to work in the park and do a lot of behind the scenes stuff, like give tours,” she said.
The internship paid $10 an hour and while she was not guaranteed 40 hours a week, Yeager often worked 40 or more hours because of peak season at the park.
She quickly found that the theme park and hospitality business was a great, unexpected way to use her SU education. Yeager was a communication/journalism major, with an emphasis in public relations. “I worked with the public a lot, so communication skills were really important,” she said.
Yeager recommends the SeaWorld internship to anyone looking to get into the theme park industry.
“Every business needs PR. This internship was a great way to get my foot in the door.”
The “door” she is referring to is not limited to SeaWorld. The SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Group is just one division of the Blackstone Group, which owns other entertainment giants such as Sesame Place, Busch Gardens and Aquatica Waterparks.
“I would love to get back into the theme park or hospitality business, it was really fun,” Yeager said. “It’s also a great conversation starter, especially at interviews, it really makes me stand out. It’s also a good way to broaden your horizons.”
Yeager credits her experience at SeaWorld for helping her land two more internships. After returning to SU after SeaWorld, her adviser helped her find another paid internship with the Pennsylvania Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals (PAESSP), a non-profit organization for school principals. She stayed as a public relations intern with PAESSP until graduating in May.
It was at PAEESP that she expanded her public relations portfolio by assisting with the organization’s electronic newsletter and quarterly magazine.
This was another stepping stone to her current position as community relations intern for Giant’s corporate office. Yeager worked as a front-end associate at a Giant grocery store for five years before interning at the corporate office. This experience has opened her eyes to a new side of communications, marketing and event planning.
“This internship made me realize event planning is attainable and not that far-fetched,” she said.
At Giant, Yeager handled a lot of promotions and community work surrounding Giant’s 90th Anniversary celebration. She also assisted with the company’s annual philanthropic golf outing and gala event.
Though all of Yeager’s internships have been paid, she encourages students to take unpaid ones too, as they are a learning experience.
“For the right opportunity, I would take an unpaid internship,” she said.
For the future, Yeager is looking to relocate to the south, specifically Savannah, Ga., or Charleston, S.C. She hopes to find work in event or wedding planning.