I knocked on the dressing room door, signaling to Hank Williams Jr. that it was time to head for the stage. It opened, and through a haze of smoke, he stepped out behind Kid Rock.

You probably think I’m stuck in a dream, or even describing a scene from a music video — but it was all a part of my summer internship.

Before I was in college, I knew Country Music Television offered internships and that I was going to apply for one. I was thrilled to find out that I got a position with the CMT.com department for the summer and my professors agreed to let me finish my finals early for the opportunity.

Heading to Nashville all alone and signing a lease for an apartment off Craigslist, without seeing it beforehand, was nerve-wracking to say the least. It was definitely a try-your-best-to-act-like-a-grown-up moment, and I was scared to be thrown into something alone. It was like moving to college all over again. I was excited though, and knew it was time to suck it up — otherwise it would just turn into something to regret.

Of course, my alarm clock went off extra early the first day, and I got to the office nearly 45 minutes before I needed to. I waited in the parking garage so I wouldn’t look like the overly excited and nerdy new intern, and went in at what I thought would seem like a cool and collected arrival — about five minutes early. I was welcomed and given my own cubicle and, before I knew it, was helping the regular employees with their everyday work-flow.  

My time at CMT flew by and was filled with exciting events. The CMT Music Awards took place during my first week at the office, and I worked backstage as a talent escort for Hank Williams Jr. It was my duty to make sure he made it on stage for the opening performance, and why they trusted me with that, I still do not know. I told my friends watching from home that if the show didn’t start, it was probably my fault. Luckily, I managed to lead Williams Jr. from his tour bus outside to where he needed to be for the beginning of the show. Country performers were running all around us and it was hectic backstage, not to mention that Williams Jr. shared a dressing room — the designated party room — with Kid Rock. In any other situation, I would feel a little star-struck, but with a big responsibility on my hands, I didn’t realize how cool my job was until it was over.

After going back to the office that night to help load content onto the website, I got to my apartment at about 2:30 a.m. But it was back to work the next day to help with the CMA Music Festival, which takes place in downtown Nashville. Armed with a camera and joined by another CMT employee, we headed to the Nashville Convention Center, where country performers hold meet-and-greets with fans. It was all going well until I headed over to Tim McGraw’s booth. I was armed with a press pass, but the fans didn’t take a second glance at it. All they know is that if you block their view, you are automatically the worst person in the world. I tried to politely move my way to the front so I could take a few quick photos to take back to the office, and the whole process took about 15 minutes. As I triumphantly made it to the front, an usher lifted the barrier to allow more fans to get in the autograph line. It was like a dam broke loose, and I was in the middle of it.

I have never experienced such crazed fans. Sacrificing every body part to hurl themselves into the line, they were truly dedicated. The other reporter that brought me along saw me in the middle of the stampede and quickly decided who it was time to call it a day. I can’t say that I was reluctant to leave for the safety of the office.

After that moment of excitement, the rest of my time at CMT was spent in the office. I got to write a few blogs and even interviewed Lucas Hoge, a new country performer, for the website. All in all, I got to do more than I ever thought an internship would allow me to do. Don’t get me wrong — I did ship a few packages, transcribe my fair share of interviews and run some mindless errands, but it was definitely worth it for the other experiences.

Despite the fun I had, there was one major downfall: I worked the whole summer for free. Apartments in Nashville are not cheap — especially when you figure in the rent on my apartment in Columbus that I had to pay at the same time. Add in gas money, a car payment, groceries and everything else, and my checking account took a beating. And when I say a beating, I mean the kind that takes a while to recover from. The last time I checked, it was just starting to catch its breath.

Despite watching my net-worth rapidly deflate, I wouldn’t have missed out on this internship. CMT was a great experience and can only help in my job search. I can’t encourage other students enough to take advantage of a summer break to apply for an internship outside Columbus. There are so many more opportunities out there — if you are willing to go into debt for it. Take a chance and apply for something that seems like a stretch. You might be surprised at what they’ll let you do.