Manhattan College always encourages students to find internships to better their chances at getting a career in their field of study. This is especially the case for seniors, where some often find a job at the very place they intern.
For Cristina “Tina” Fernandez, her internship was a dream come true for any broadcasting student: “Saturday Night Live”.
“I originally went into the communication field because it is such a broad spectrum and I knew I wanted to go into the entertainment industry, I just wasn’t completely sure what aspect. I declared my concentration as broadcasting going into sophomore year of college. I did this because I wanted to get closer to TV production itself and learn as much as I could,” said Fernandez in her email interview.
Fernandez graduated in 2016 but had already been interning at the sketch comedy show during her final semester at MC. She credits her broadcasting classes for teaching her valuable information she would need when she would inevitably work on a set.
But the person she credits most of all is Michael Grabowski, Ph.D., an associate professor of the communication department. Grabowski teaches broadcasting classes on working in a television studio, fieldwork and post-production work.
“Professor Grabowski is such a great teacher. Some of the best things I learned from him that inspired me in relation to my internship and job are the daily tips and pieces of advice he would give the class. He taught us as much as he could in the classroom but in this field, I feel, there are certain situations where you could only learn on the job and that’s where I’ve found his advice has come to mind more than I can count. It may sound like common sense but in relation to internships I remember him saying that we had to make ourselves irreplaceable. To go above and beyond what was expected of us in our internships so when the internship was over they had to hire you because they felt they needed you around. I tried my best to do just that in my ‘SNL’ internship and I think it worked,” said Fernandez.
It clearly worked as she has maintained her position on the “Saturday Night Live” team, but this time as an assistant to cast member Leslie Jones. Her job has her on set every week to help with Jones and her team.
When the show has a “dark week” (when there isn’t a new episode scheduled for that Saturday), Fernandez is on the road with Jones to other shows she has booked like the BET Awards, which Jones hosted over the past summer in June, or attending the Emmy Awards, where Jones was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
“My internship with ‘SNL’ got me where I am now so that’s really the best part. It helped tremendously because I made so many great connections at the show that were happy and willing to help me by referring me to other jobs they had heard of, including the job I have now,” said Fernandez.
At “SNL”, the MC alumni served as a writers research intern, helping writers and cast members with production and nonproduction-based tasks. “SNL” welcomes interns through their doors every semester to do jobs like these to help with the show’s busy work week leading up to the live show on Saturday.
“It was truly an awesome experience and I don’t think I would have ever experienced anything close to it elsewhere… The best things I learned during my intern days [were] how to work in such a fast-paced environment and how to act and interact with talent. I was able to observe so much and I really tried to absorb as much as I could,” said Fernandez.
During her time interning, Fernandez was still a full-time student, finishing up her bachelor’s degree in broadcasting and being committed to the Jasper Dancers squad. The balancing act she had between her work life and school life allowed her to have valuable life skills in managing her time.
“Jasper Dancers was really one of the core aspects of my college experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world. When I was a senior on the dance team, I was also interning at ‘SNL’. At times it was a lot to handle but it made me an expert at time management and was extremely disciplining. I remember having to skip some senior events so I could fulfill my commitments to dance team and ‘SNL’ so I feel the lessons I learned then have impacted how I prioritize my life after college,” said Fernandez.
Fernandez’s lucky break with “Saturday Night Live” and being an assistant to cast member Leslie Jones relates back to something professors always encourage students to take advantage of: apply for internships, put yourself out there and excel.
As for advice from Fernandez herself, she reassures students there is no hurt in trying and continuously make yourself open and available to anything.
“The advice I would give is to simply go for it. Work hard and put in the hours because it won’t go unnoticed. Say yes to everything that is asked of you and figure it out later. More specifically for ‘SNL’, I would say to apply and don’t get discouraged. Any way you can get your foot in the NBC door is amazing and then you can always network. It’s a huge part of this world so you might as well get good at it.”