Summer interns gain experience, get a taste for chosen field

Summer schooling
Zach Huffman, a rising sophomore at Mercer University, is a summer intern with Savannah River Nuclear Solutions at SRS.



This summer has hardly been a break for Nicole Erich, Zach Huffman or Andrew Lawandus.

The three students have been busy with internships, getting experience in the fields they are studying or plan to study. Erich is a logistics intern with E-Z-Go, Huffman is working with Savannah River Nuclear Solutions at Savannah River Site and Lawandus is working at Wier/Stewart as a graphic design and printmaking intern.

Huffman, a rising sophomore biomedical engineering student at Mercer University, is one of 138 interns SRNS has had this year. Without this internship, he said, he would have a much smaller picture of what life after school will be like.

“What you learn in a classroom setting and what’s applied in the field are two totally different things,” Huffman said.

SRS has equipment and opportunities he wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise, he said, and he was able to help out with real projects and not just exercises.

Huffman worked with the research and development group, designing circuit boards, drafting and building plastic models from 3D designs with a 3D printer.

“A lot of people just get to read about this in textbooks,” he said.

Angela Martin, human resources representative and project manager for the interns, said the program not only offers students valuable experience but also helps SRNS to identify young talent to hire later.

“We hope to fill our pipeline with skilled workers who have already become acclimated to our company culture, and who will want to come back and work with us in the future,” she said.

Lawandus, who has a two-month internship at Wier/Stewart, spearheaded FireAunt, the company’s new online poster shop. He said it will be nice to have a tangible project to talk about in future job interviews.

Even though he’s been freelancing since high school, working with a company has taught him things he wouldn’t have learned on his own, he said.

Daniel Stewart, studio director at Wier/Stewart, said Lawandus has worked out well as an intern because he has been a true asset to the firm and not just someone to babysit.

“He’s a good designer, and he’s rejuvenated our printmaking studio,” Stewart said.

While in school, Lawandus said, he might be able to bargain for a deadline extension, but working with Wier/Stewart showed him that doesn’t happen in the professional world.

“You have to have it at the deadline, otherwise you lose your job or the client,” he said.

Stewart said he and the rest of the firm did their best to give Lawandus an accurate picture of what life at a design firm is like, not a fun summer-camp experience.

“I think the best thing you can do for an intern is to be hard on them,” Stewart said. “The point is to give them a taste of the real world.”

His time at Wier/Stewart has been invaluable, Lawandus said, and will make his school year job at a coffee shop pale in comparison.

“Going back to working a regular job is going to suck,” he said with a laugh.

The best part of Erich’s internship at E-Z-Go, she said, was knowing that her work was accomplishing a goal, and not just fulfilling a school assignment.

“I actually got an opportunity to work on things that impacted the company,” she said.

Her time at E-Z-Go has renewed her enthusiasm going into her upcoming senior year at the University of South Carolina, and she said she will be working harder and paying closer attention because she knows what she is learning will help her in the future.

“I’m looking forward to having a different perspective,” she said.

“I’m probably going to pay more attention in class because I know these are actually things you use in your job or that’s the type of thing that will help me in this situation.”

Steve Sucher, the director of human resources at E-Z-Go, said the interns’ superiors were told not to create work for the interns, but to directly involve them in company machinations.

“This is not meant to be a make-work type exercise,” he said. “They were able to help us with things we wouldn’t have gotten done otherwise.”