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From beaches to skyscrapers

Ryan Sagawa is a third year digital arts major and communications minor student at the University of Oregon from Hilo, Hawai’i. 

Here I am 5,000 miles away from my home Hilo, Hawai’i in one of the most famous cities in the world, having the experience of a lifetime with the AOL Corporate Events team.  For me it’s more than just being able to intern for a great company like AOL, I’m fulfilling my dream of living in New York City.  So, let’s start with how I fulfilled my lifelong dream.

This internship could not have been possible without the strongly convincing Facebook post of my good friend Brady Smith.  He posted, “Check out my, it’s actually a really cool website and you should probably make one if you know what’s good for you.” After reading that last phrase I instantly made one.

It took me about a week to realize that there was a contest for one of five internships with AOL.  Again thanks to Brady Smith, he came up with the great idea of creating a Facebook group where we invited all our friends and asked them to go vote for our pages. For a month I was constantly sharing my page link to my Facebook wall, and posting status updates to go vote.

One tactic that worked was setting a goal for the amount of votes to reach by the end of the day.  I would screenshot the amount of votes I currently had in the morning and then share it saying “Let’s reach this amount by the end of the day.”  When twenty more votes were needed to reach the goal I would screenshot and share again.  I think it got people excited to vote, and by saying “let’s” made them feel more attached to the contest itself.

After all the pleading for votes I passed the first round, and then came my first ever phone interview.  Before the interview I just told myself, just smile the whole time while speaking and try to be as professional as I can be.  Thankfully the atmosphere was really casual and throughout that 25-minute interview I think 10 minutes of it was me laughing and saying “It’s just exciting.”   Two days after the interview all the doubts and me over-analyzing the interview set in thinking I probably wouldn’t get it.  In my mind at the time I was already picking out summer school classes.

Then, two weeks later I wake up to the cheerful AOL Corporate Events team calling me and saying I got the internship.  I literally had no words, one because I was half asleep and two simply because I got the internship! I was so shocked that I had to call back to confirm 20 minutes later, when I was fully awake and it hit me what had just happened.

I’ve been with the AOL Corporate Events team for about three weeks and I absolutely love it.  I just thought it was amazing how they had me working and running errands in the first three days of interning.  By the third day I was taking a taxi uptown to grab chocolates for guests, on location by myself loading passengers into a van, and staying in the office till 11:30pm helping setup an iPad wall.  I wouldn’t have wanted my first few days any different.  To make things even better, my events team members and co-workers are the some of the nicest and most down to earth people I have ever met.

Not only does this internship give me hands on experience in large scale event planning, but I also get to tour NYC at the same time.  I’ve been able to eat breakfast at the famous Balthazar Restaurant, see the Crosby Hotel, view the whole 5th Ave in a taxi while on an errand, go to Dylan’s Candy Bar, and even attend a Yankees Game!  On top of that, being able to see Arianna Huffington, Tim Armstrong, Jordin Sparks, and the rest of the AOL Executive team in person is just amazing.  I love being able to walk through Soho everyday after interning while going back to my apartment.  Already this internship has gone beyond my expectations, and my dream of experiencing city life has been fulfilled.

Thank you again to everyone that voted throughout the contest, Lauren Bloch, the whole AOL Corporate Events team, and my parents for letting me spend my summer across the country.  If it’s one thing I’ve come to realize after being here for three weeks is that I’m not looking forward to the day I have to leave my internship with the AOL Corporate Events team.