From interviewing celebrities on the red carpet to snuggling up with exotic wildlife, UCF students are taking on "the real world" pre-graduation.
Most students have heard the internship horror stories of fetching dry cleaning, juggling Starbuck's latte orders and getting an ear-full from the Miranda Priestly's of the world — but some students are here to say that those stories don't have to be a reality.
Diara Bradley, a senior radio/television broadcast journalism major, followed her dream and interned for E! News in Los Angeles, California this past summer.
Bradley said E! News has always been her dream company, and to be turned down from the internship at first was not something she was going to accept. She was persistent, and with two weeks' notice, got the internship.
Bradley worked in the fashion and lifestyle production department, where she experienced the combination of writing, production and entertainment for national news.
Her big project was Fashion Week. She was in charge of contacting public-relations representatives for different designers, organizing everything from the ground up.
Bradley said the hardest part about her internship was that she couldn't snap photos with the celebs she saw walking the carpet.
"All I could do was journal about it and write about what I did and who I saw," she said.
One of her big moments came when Robin Williams passed away.
"We were all in there and all of a sudden it was chaos. Everyone had to take action and respond to get the news out quickly," Bradley said. "It was an unfortunate event, but it was a great experience for me to see how breaking news happens."
She said it is very important to be proactive and stay energized because news can be draining. It is very beneficial to come in with a positive attitude because people may not always give you the motivation and support that you need.
Bradley ended her internship by contributing to the Emmy's rehearsal.
"I got to take home a piece of the red carpet. I'm going to frame it as motivation to keep working because that's what I really want to do in entertainment news," she said.
Other students have also been lucky enough to get a small taste of the industries they hope to break in to, including Melanie Arcic, a senior event management major, who interned with the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival this past summer.
"The festival industry is where I want to work, so I emailed the company right away and got a response back with an application," Arcic said.
The internship lasted 10 days, during which she and 15 other interns helped run the volunteer program of about 2,000 people.
Arcic said it was a life-changing experience — she met interns from all over the United States and learned about the hard work that goes into the festival industry.
"This internship made it clear that this is the industry I want to be in; it's what I live for and love so much," she said.
Far away from the festival life of Banaroo in Machester, Tennessee, Siemens Energy located right across from UCF's campus spelled opportunity for Patrick Kowal, a junior mechanical engineering major.
"My favorite part has been working with professionals in my field, applying my education and seeing meaningful results come from my work here," Kowal said.
As an intern at a place where around 360,000 people across 190 countries are employed, he said that sometimes it is difficult to see the impact you are making. But once you step back and look at the bigger picture, it becomes clear.
Kowal said this internship surpassed any expectations he had set, providing him with valuable networking and communication experience.
For another Knight, the desire to see her work make a difference in children's lives was a driving force.
Kathryn Ross, a junior psychology and Spanish double major, interned as a behavioral analyst at Alpine Academy, a school for autistic children. Her favorite part? Building relationships with the youngsters in her class.
"At first they could barely remember my name. But toward the end of the internship, they were happy to see me, greeting me with smiles and playing games with me during playground time," she said.
Unfortunately, some students would have tantrums and become violent, which is what allowed Ross to gain a sense of authority and independence.
For Jennifer Koester, she saw marine animals as the needy recipients of her work. A junior biology major, Koester conducted field research on sea turtles this past summer.
"Working with endangered species seemed like a great opportunity to learn more about research and conservation," Koester said.
Her favorite part of the internship was living at the work site in a quaint house on the beach. And although she had a great place to stay, she had to adjust her sleep schedule because female marine turtles lay their eggs at night.
"We would have to stay up until 2 a.m. to document and mark nests, and then wake up at 6 a.m. to count how many female turtles came on to the refuge as a whole," she said. "We were basically nocturnal for four days a week."
Koester said she was challenged mentally and physically, but was left with invaluable knowledge.
Fellow biology major Andrea Long shares Koester's love of animals. The senior, who is also double majoring in psychology, interned in Noble, Oklahoma, this past summer to work with the wildlife rehabilitation facility, WildCare Foundation.
She worked with more than 2,000 wild animals and was exposed to more than 100 different species.
"As a pre-vet student, I felt as though the animal experience and the opportunity to shadow the on-staff veterinarians has helped prepare me for vet school," she said.
She learned how to feed, handle, medicate and care for various wildlife species during what she described as a new adventure every single day.
"[The internship] made me a better person, and will hopefully make me a better vet one day," she said.