In addition to warm weather and relaxation, internships are often an integral part of summer for an Elon University student.

With the fall semester underway, many students are using their summer internship experiences to guide them in their future academic and career endeavors.

Senior Heather Olin, a communications major, spent the summer earning academic credit as a press intern for the upcoming Woodstock Film Festival.

“I enjoyed the film aspects of my job and respect what the festival does,” Olin said. “Independent film is such an important part of the industry, but it doesn’t get as much exposure as Hollywood blockbusters.”

But, her experiences interning for the festival taught her a lot about what she does not want to do in the future. Olin spent much of her time writing blurbs to describe films accepted to the festival, and felt that the staff valued her opinion, she said.

“I learned I don’t want to sit at a desk,” Olin said. “I can’t sit in front of a computer for hours each day and be happy.”

Senior Mary Heckler, a political science major, also felt that her time as an intern served mostly to highlight the career paths she does not want to take.

While interning for the American Cancer Society in Washington, D.C., Heckler spent time helping to plan events such as the upcoming Lobby Day, which will be attended by more than 600 volunteer lobbyists.

“I had to put together participant information packets,” Heckler said. “I also helped with the grassroots summer camp, where they trained volunteers to advocate grassroots movements to create cancer awareness.”

Though Heckler enjoyed getting an inside look at Capitol Hill, her summer served mainly to discourage her from event planning, and instead reaffirmed her previous ambitions of attending law school, she said.

Still, Heckler said she feels she has benefited in some ways from her internship, which allowed her to meet some of the American Cancer Society’s legal team.

Learning about what career paths will or will not be fulfilling to a student is one of the advantages of completing an internship, according to Pam Brumbaugh, director of experiential education at Elon.

“It’s a great way to test the career waters,” Brumbaugh said. “It’s a way to see if the career you’re considering is something you would love to do.”

Completing multiple internships allows students to explore a variety of job opportunities in their field of interest, Brumbaugh said.

Junior Ryan Baldridge, a physics and math double major, recently completed his second internship with SAS Software in Carrie, North Carolina.

This year he served as a paid technical intern and performed tasks such as computer coding and graphing, which he preferred over his previous marketing internship.

“This internship really let me see what career options I had,” Baldridge said.

Though Baldridge’s majors do not require him to complete an internship, he said he feels that his time at SAS was well spent and worthwhile.

“Money is always nice,” he said. “But working for SAS was definitely worth it if not for the money, then for the experience.”

Between 1200, and 1,500 Elon students do summer internships, and roughly half of those internships are unpaid, according to Brumbaugh. Experience offers a greater incentive than money, she said.

“It amazes me how some (students) can show almost an overnight professionalism,” Brumbaugh said. “Internships can get you in to a professional setting you normally wouldn’t be able to get in to without years of training.”