May 25, 2023
This post was written by Dollywood PR Intern, Tessa Brainard.
Dolly once said, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” Like everyone in their early twenties, I’m searching for myself and my career in every corner of the earth, trying everything I can in the hopes of finding something I love. This is what inspired me to apply for a Retail and Merchandise Management Internship position at Dollywood for the Fall 2022 semester.
I was born and raised in Sedona, Arizona (home of Pink Jeep Adventure Tours!) and I’m a senior at Arizona State University pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies and Mass Communication. My degree is online, so I’ve never had the “typical” college experience that others have. I dreamt of the day when I would step out on my own for the first time. I never thought Dolly would, in some ways, be taking my hand while I did so.
It seems as though God had other plans for me. In February 2022, I saw a Facebook post discussing internship opportunities for the Fall 2022 semester and figured – why not apply? I received an email a few days later and was scheduled for a phone interview. I was extremely nervous before the call, but as soon as it started, I knew I was in safe hands. I was offered the position and happily accepted. From there, my arrival was set for August 2022.
It all felt light years away as I went about my normal life. Then, all of a sudden, it was August. I was packing my life up into two suitcases and boarding a plane to a place I’d never been. I had never lived away from home and never experienced the feeling of homesickness that so many college students have to go through as they settle into their newfound independence. You can imagine the shock to my system as I arrived in Tennessee, a thousand miles away from everything I’ve ever known.
I knew I had to stick it out, and doing so proved to be the best decision I’ve ever made. Once I found a support system of new friends and coworkers, I felt unstoppable. I was able to walk through the park and see guests having the time of their lives and feel like I was part of something bigger than myself. I called my parents every day expecting just to give them the highlight reel, only to realize that the entire day was lit up with highlights. As much as I missed them, knowing that I was making them proud made it worthwhile.
Their pride in me and the love of everyone I’ve met here is what drove me to apply for an internship with Dollywood’s Public Relations Team. I initially applied to come back in the summer of 2023, but instead I was offered the position for the spring semester. I accepted without a second thought. I went back to Arizona in December to spend the holidays with my family and was counting down the days until I was to return in January.
Returning to Dollywood was like returning home. Breathing in the winter air of the Great Smoky Mountains reminded me of why I was here. I got to see all of my friends again and began meeting new people who I bonded with quickly. Everything felt like it was right back into place.
It is hard to believe all that I’ve accomplished in just under a year. From nervously walking into orientation on my first day to helping open a brand-new roller coaster, everything since then has felt like a dream come true. The learning opportunities I’ve had make me confident that I have the experience necessary to step into the world after graduation. I cannot say enough about how kind the Dollywood family has been to me or how proud I am to have spent the past 10 months with them. Tennessee is now a second home. It is bittersweet to say goodbye, but as I go back to Arizona to finish my degree, I know the memories and friendships I’ve made here will stick with me. I want to thank everyone I’ve met on this journey, because their kindness has changed my life.
If anyone reading this is considering applying for an internship with Dollywood, I would highly encourage you to do it. I have overcome so many fears and doubts now that I know what I’m capable of. I feel truly blessed to have had this experience. Take the leap of faith, because it is worth it. In the words of our Dreamer-In-Chief herself, “You’ll never do a whole lot unless you’re brave enough to try.”
Information about internship opportunities with Dollywood can be found here: https://www.dollywood.com/jobs/