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Student summer jobs cover everything from HIV research to Wonder Woman

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – For most college students, summer vacation is a time to take a break from academia, get out into the world and make some money. Four Bethel students proved this summer that those three months in the “real” world can have its own unreality.

Caitlin Welch, senior from Lawrence, obtained an internship at Mount Sinai Medical School in New York City. She elected to spend her summer working in the infectious disease lab, focusing on the prevention of female HIV infection through heterosexual contact. For Welch, the contrast between lab and urban lifestyles left an indelible impression.

“Life in New York City moves much faster than life at Bethel College, but for me this was a nice balance because often life in the lab can move very slowly,” Welch said. “I might spend four hours in the lab isolating one specific cell-type, only to emerge at lunch into a swirling mass of people and taxis all moving as fast as the traffic and their own bodies would let them.”

Welch and her fiancé Aaron Linscheid, senior from North Newton, spent three months house-sitting for friends in Teaneck, N.J., and commuting into Manhattan, where Linscheid also had a summer internship with the New York Philharmonic’s Education Department.

Linscheid’s job with the department was twofold. First, he read and reported on surveys and recommendations from participants in the Philharmonic’s School Partnership Program, designed to provide music education to students in struggling New York public elementary schools.

Second, he designed a Web game called MusiQuest, in which middle-school age students can explore the Philharmonic’s Avery Fisher Hall and the inner, backstage workings of the orchestra. On the quest, players must solve problems, complete aural skills tests that expose them to great works of orchestral literature, collect tools that help them later and finally “play” a concert with “the Phil.”

“Because of the large amount of time I spent reading for my job, I was able to move myself from the office to the hall quite easily,” Linscheid said. “I would show up early in the morning, gather my materials and spend my day at the back of Avery Fisher watching and listening as the orchestra laughed at [conductor] Bramwell Tovey’s jokes, played string music for fun after rehearsal had ended and rehearsed its repertoire for the Summer Classics series.”

Junior Brett Jackson, Newton, spent his summer exploring very different reaches of the musical world. Jackson was hired by Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, Mo., to entertain crowds by playing saxophone in a band with seven other young musicians, which meant plenty of time outside in the heat.

One day when the heat index reached 113 degrees, the band’s tuba player passed out and fell backwards into the Worlds of Fun fountain. Despite the perils, however, Jackson thinks he might do it again next summer.

“I think I got [some] introduction to the music business,” he said. “I already knew that I would probably have to play a little ‘cheese’ to be able to make money, but even when playing that kind of music you get the chance to play with some really great musicians.”

At another amusement park two states away, Hannah Blalock, sophomore from Coppell, Texas, worked 14-hour days as DC Comics super-heroine Wonder Woman at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington.

“I got a lot of requests to tie people up with my magic lasso,” Blalock said. “Several people asked me to marry them, and I got asked out on a ton of dates by middle school boys.”

While Welch was learning about T-cells, Linscheid about musical education programming and Jackson about the music industry, Blalock took away lessons on what it means to play a character. She spent her days waving, smiling, “looking pretty,” signing autographs, posing for pictures and answering questions about Wonder Woman.

“It surprised me how people will do and say things to costumed characters that they would never do if they weren’t in costume,” she said.

All four students came to the end of their summer feeling like their experiences were valuable regardless of harassment, heat exhaustion or long nights in the lab. Now back in Bethel residence halls for another year of school, each can personally testify to the academic and surreal nature of the “real world.”

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel web site at

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