Off-season adventurers: Three students who made the most of their time away from Northwestern

Sophomore Adarsh Shah spent his time away from campus helping a community in South Africa.

With classes finally starting, the question, “What did you do this summer?” is beginning to fade away. Over the din of conversations in any party or Norris, you probably hear the same things: an internship here, a study abroad experience there, a summer job at camp-something-or-the-other. However, your ears might perk up if someone said they worked at the London Olympics, spent the summer in South Africa or rubbed elbows with the folks at HBO. That’s exactly what students Ali Dillon, Adarsh Shah and Max Saines did with their roughly three-and-a-half months away from campus.

Going to the games

Communication senior Ali Dillonn was closer to the Olympic action in London than any of us could get with our HDTVs, courtesy of her internship with Visa.  As one of four interns, her primary responsibility was to host VIP clients, getting them to and from events, arranging transportation and attending the Games and board meetings.

“It was an exhausting experience, but definitely worth it,” Dillon said.

Dillon’s internship allowed her to interact with Olympians, London college students, international students serving as translators and Visa representatives. The passion was palpable because everyone was united for one thing, the one event that brings the world together, she said.

Dillon admitted the highlight of her summer was sitting fourth row at a Roger Federer match. She recalled getting chills from just being there and hearing the crowd chant his name. It’s the one experience she’d definitely relive again.

“My memories really come down to the feelings that you had while you’re there,” Dillon said. “When the fireworks go off, when someone wins a gold medal and when you hear the national anthem of the United States. Those are the things that really stick out to me and that I’ll always remember.”

The rise of Lemon King

Most people have heard the phrase “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” and have at some point distorted the expression to take on a personal sentiment. However, when Communication sophomore Adarsh Shah went to South Africa this summer, he did just that. He made lemonade.

Tucked away in northeastern South Africa lies the small village of Newington. Northwestern University’s Global Engagement Studies Institute teamed up with Think Impact, a global developmental company that promotes sustainability  in Africa. This summer, Shah joined GESI to work in Newington for two months. The core purpose, Shah said, was to work with villagers to institute a community development project. The group, dubbed Lemon King, aimed to create jobs and stimulate cash flow in the village.

This is easier said than done. After two tenuous weeks, Shah and his colleagues were starting to feel defeated. Intense debate ensued on how to best help the community, but the team finally thought of an initiative: lemons.

As Newington’s mild climate allows for an 8-month-long lemon season, there is never a shortage of the sour fruit. The farmers supplied free lemons in exchange for a portion of the produced lemonade. The result was a constitution and business plan, which employed four villagers who did not previously have jobs. The agreement also allocated 15 percent of profits to further expansion and established a plan to build a community garden to feed the poor. Two months later, and the business is looking to broaden into other fruit products. It turns out that life you giving lemons may not always be such a bad thing.

Summer with the stars

From super fan to a member of the team, senior Max Saines took his passion for HBO shows and turned it into the summer internship of a lifetime. This summer, the Communication student went to work in HBO’s Creative Services department in New York. In this role, he handled it all, from commercials for upcoming shows to twenty-minute specials on boxers, and even red carpet premieres for Comic-Con.

And those were just his day-to-day responsibilities. As an intern, Saines also attended several special events, including the Middleweight Boxing Championship.

This behind-the-scenes look gave Saines a view of what the athletes are really like when the cameras stop rolling.

“I got to see the two boxers,” Saines said. “They always like sort of trash talk with each other in the public sphere and it was really cool because the second the pictures were done being taken … they were really friendly with each other … sort of pumping each other up.”

The TV buff said he was drawn to the internship based on the quality of HBO’s programing.

“The reason I applied was because I’m like a diehard fan; I pretty much watched all of their shows and they’re pretty much consistently my favorite shows. I feel like all of their series finales have almost been perfect,” Saines said.

After working all summer at the network, Saines remains a huge fan and can add even more to the list of things he loves about HBO, “(The) network’s awesome, people were awesome, shows are awesome.”