April 10, 2014

Six Men's Tennis Student-Athletes Travel Down Under for Exciting Externship Opportunity

by Chris Wolfe

Rafael Nadal called it the worst hour-and-a-half he ever spent on a tennis court. Fighting through an injured back and a quarter-size blister on his left palm during the Australian Open finals, he fell to underdog Stanislas Wawrinka in four sets.

While Nadal hopes to put his January visit to Australia behind him, not everybody is so eager to forget. Certainly not Wawrinka, who had never taken a set from top-ranked Nadal before the finals match in Melbourne. And definitely not six DePauw students who spent the month immersed in tournament tennis down under.

Eric C. Bruynseels '15 and his men's tennis teammates, Christopher C, Bertolini '15, Alec M. Kaczkowski '16, Nicholas P. Makowiecki '16, Nicholas R. Thompson '16 and Eric R. Vannatta '15 began their trip up the Australian coast at the Apia International Sydney Open where they volunteered behind the scenes as media interns.

"We were attracted to the externship because it would allow us to get a deeper understanding of how a tournament is worked and help strengthen our tennis network," Bruynseels says. "And we would get to watch tennis pros at an international venue."

Though Winter Term is best known for international study and service trips, many students use the month to explore potential career paths. DePauw's Hubbard Center for Student Engagement works with students to arrange externship opportunities, often through alumni professionals and business owners. In January 2014, DePauw students worked at the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Smithsonian Institute, Eli Lilly and Coimpany, and with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Serving on software engineering externships in California, Rajat Kumar '15 and Tao Qian '15 took a weekend off from their work to win a 24-hour programming "hackathon" hosted by Facebook and Microsoft. Their mobile app, Aracle, would let users anonymously ask questions of their friends via Facebook.

"Externships – short-term internships – are a great way for our students to explore career opportunities in a given industry and build on professional skills, goals and knowledge in a meaningful way," Hubbard Center Internship Coordinator Christine L. Munn says. "More importantly, this type of experience can often help students determine what it is they do not want to do. Participating in externships can also open many doors for our students, as many are invited to come back for the summer for a longer internship experience."

Bruynseels says that plans for his group's externship began when he found out about a trip to Australia taken by members of the men's tennis team four years ago. Unfortunately, those trip connections had been lost, so Bruynseels spent months cold-calling before he got in touch with a representative at Tennis Australia. After explaining how and why he and the others wanted to volunteer, they got their chance.

"It was neat to be involved with the tournament because we got to see how media press conferences were set up and broadcasted," Bruynseels says. "We also analyzed how effectively they were using their media services to promote the tournament."

"It opened my eyes to career possibilities in sports," Bruynseels says.

The group also ended up with more time to simply be fans of their sport than they had bargained for. During a center-court going-away party in Sydney, their Apia hosts surprised them with tickets to see tennis superstars such as Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray at the Australian Open.

"Watching a match in Rod Laver Arena was definitely an amazing experience," Bruynseels says.

Unless you were Nadal.