Eric Paul on How to Make Your Internship an Adventure

Our Transformed by Travel Photo Contest is open to all of our participants and alumni. Instead of just showing you their prize-winning photos, we asked them some questions to get to know them.

This week, we asked Eric Paul, a J-1 intern, for his advice on the photo contest and his internship. Check out his tips and some more of his beautiful photography.

Eric Paul poses in his prize-winning photo “Given the choice, always choose adventure.”


Meet Eric Paul, Train USA J-1 Internship


Tell us a little about your internship experience. What was the most rewarding or surprising aspect of your program?

My internship was in Silicon Valley for about five months where I worked as a Camera Hardware Engineer. The internship was an extremely rewarding experience, both professionally, socially and with regards to exploring the outdoors while staying in such a great state. The most rewarding aspect of the internship was getting to perform research in one of the world’s most well-equipped laboratories and directly have an input on my company’s products.

What advice would you give to future J-1 interns?

The best advice I would give to future J-1 interns is to not sweat the small stuff. It may seem like a daunting transition to relocate internationally, as was the case for me. But so long as you are organized and prepared, everything should go smoothly. Border agencies aren’t out to get you, they just want to make sure you have followed the necessary steps. With that said, as with most travel, bring photocopies of everything important!

What advice do you have for future photo contest entrants?

My advice for future photo contest entrants would be to seek the kind of photos that convey the emotion you felt at the time you took it. Try to tell a story with your image instead of seeking a perfectly posed portrait.

The Story Behind the Photo

Eric shared the following inspiration behind his photo contest entry. As Eric says, it’s important to try to tell a story with your image.

“I was fortunate enough to land a summer internship in Silicon Valley, California. I knew this was going to be a summer of adventure and I couldn’t wait for it to begin. I opted out of the flight included in my offer package and instead loaded my subcompact car with clothes, computers, and camping equipment. It took three days and 42 hours of driving to get from Canada to California. I was alone and slept in truck stops and parking lots. Why, you might ask? Because in 10 years, no one is going to remember a flight or how they felt falling asleep in a hotel. Given the option, always choose adventure.

Photo Credit: Eric Paul

I made it a goal of my four-month internship to never spend a weekend sleeping indoors and I did just that. This photo was taken with my frost-covered cell phone propped against a rock to capture the final moments of my solo climb of the entire 14,149 foot Mount Shasta in a single day. I had worked 60 hours that week and left straight from work on Friday. It was a seven-hour drive and I arrived precisely in time for my 12 am start time. I strapped on my newly purchased mountaineering boots and loaded up my pack.

Photo Credit: Eric Paul

Hiking alone at night is exciting, hiking alone at night without a headlamp is a very exciting. I hiked straight through the night and by 5 am I reached 8,000 feet and got to witness the most beautiful sunrise I had ever seen. I pressed on, climbed past where the trees ended, past where the snow began and past the tops of the clouds. It took 14 hours straight to reach the summit. It was miserable. Cold, windy, thin air and thirsty, but if it were easy everyone would do it. I reached the summit. I could see the tops of every cloud in the sky.

Photo Credit: Eric Paul

This was by far the highest I had ever been and the hardest I had ever worked. But why? Why even do this? I climbed that mountain because I wasn’t sure if I could. I firmly believe that we have the opportunity every day to make our life an adventure. It can be had both through little steps or big climbs, but remember that it all begins with a choice. Given the choice, always choose adventure.”

Photo Credit: Eric Paul

Enter Our Photo Contest

Do you have a photo that can show the transformative power of travel? Enter our photo contest by October 3rd. Unlimited entries. The winner gets a trip to FotoWeekDC.