True Stories: How Grad Students Used Summer Internships to Launch Their Careers- Julia

Greetings grad students! We’re excited to bring you our fourth installment of True Stories, Julia Cawthra. Julia did her summer internship at Wellspring Campus just like Ben, but instead of basking in the California sun, her journey took her to the Lone Star State.

julia Cawthra-True Stories-Office of Graduate StudiesIntern: Julia Cawthra, master’s student majoring in sport and performance psychology

EmployerRivermend Health Wellspring Camps a weight loss camp for kids, teens, young adults, and women. Services include behavioral health experts, cognitive behavioral therapy, culinary and nutritional training, lifestyle management, exercise and physical activity, and continuing care.


What she did

From June–August 2014, I was in San Marcos, Texas, working with overweight to obese youth aged 11–24. The campers voluntarily gave up anywhere from three to eight weeks of their summers to develop and build a healthy lifestyle. My role as a behavioral coach was to empower them to make those difficult, daunting changes so they could achieve their goals of a healthy weight and active lifestyle that continued past their time at camp. I met with 15–20 campers individually on a weekly basis and ran between four and six groups each week. We discussed the difficulties of camp in general, being away from their families, and then of course the difficulty and importance of making this lifestyle change. Every three weeks, I held individual meetings with the campers and their parents to discuss changes at home that would help facilitate a lasting change.

How her summer internship helped her career

At Wellspring I was able to work with an individual client base that provided me with the experience I wanted to go on and get my PhD to obtain licensure as a psychologist. I was provided with a wonderful real world application to what I was learning in my classes, and the individual and group sessions helped me feel more comfortable coming into my second year of coursework. Additionally, I felt very nurtured as someone new to practicing that enabled me to learn and develop as a future practitioner. I also got accepted into my top choice PhD program at Indiana, so I’d like to think my experience over a short 9 weeks at Wellspring really boosted my chances there!

Advice she’d give to DU grad students

  • Start early: I applied to Wellspring around February or March, which I thought was pretty early but others had secured employment earlier than that. Definitely not ideal to wait until the last minute because many positions require specific training before starting the job.
  • Be prepared to be busy: As far as things to look out for, Wellspring is exhausting but such a wonderful experience if you like the camp environment of your youth days. I generally enjoy having alone time as part of my daily routine, and that was cut short while at Wellspring (but I thoroughly loved spending that extra time with the kids because they were so loving and fun).
  • Expect the unexpected: I would say the most difficult and surprising part of the job was connecting and communicating with the parents of the campers. Those interactions were difficult mostly for the eye-opening detail they provided into why the campers were struggling so much.
  • Speak up: If you are looking for specific hours for certification or licensure, be sure to mention that to the employer; they might be willing to accommodate your needs if they value you as an employee (that being said, if they don’t accommodate you it does not mean they don’t value you!). I wish I would have known the possibility of a variable end date to the position. Everything worked out for me in the end, but some people in my position were not on staff for the full 9 weeks as I initially expected, which affected the pay that we expected to receive.

The aftermath of the summer has been interesting. Initially I was thankful for the experience but was not considering returning for subsequent summers. Now I am yearning to go back and keep working at Wellspring because of the positive relationships created, not only with my fellow colleagues but also the higher positions within the company. Wellspring is a very enhancing environment!

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