English communication + media studies major Jordan Long's '16 spirit is one that seems to mimic a hot air balloon ride. In his own words, Long stated, "The nature of balloons is spontaneous, as they are a non-directional aircraft, meaning each flight we would land somewhere different and meet new and exciting people."
Long has always had an interest in hot air balloons, and when he visited Post Mills Airport and Boland Balloons in Post Mills, Vermont, years ago he thought, "it was an incredible, magical place." Fast forward to 2015, when Long decided to reach out to Brian Boland, the hot-air balloon designer and pilot who runs the airport, and take a chance by asking Boland if he could use someone with a background in communications for his business.
"Brian Boland is one of the most experienced and well-known pilots in the world with more than 10,000 hours piloting hot air balloons," Long said. "He has been a balloon designer and manufacturer since 1971 and has flown all over the world. I wanted the chance to work and fly with Mr. Boland as I thought it would be a unique and interesting experience."
Long got that chance and landed an internship with Boland as an assistant site manager and crew member. Long felt this specific position would give him a full-time work immersion experience, while also being able to implement knowledge gained from his media studies classes.
After receiving a balloon pilot license with Boland, Long began giving scenic balloon rides over the Upper Connecticut River Valley. As a member of the ground crew, Long prepared the balloons and their associated apparatuses for flight. He would wake up early in the morning to set up the balloon prior to a 7:00 a.m. takeoff. Each flight lasted around an hour. Sometimes, Long would be in the aircraft, while other times he would drive the chase vehicle that retrieves the balloon at the end of the flight. After the flight, he would pack up the balloon and have a mini-celebration with the passengers over some refreshments before giving them a tour of the airport's Experimental Balloon and Aircraft Association Museum, a 17,000 square foot museum filled with more than 140 aircraft, vehicles, sculptures and other "rusty, dusty, fun stuff."
When not in the air, Long assisted elsewhere on the property by helping design and build exhibits in the museum, preparing the aircraft for inspection and repair and assisting in public relations for the airport, the Experimental Balloon Association of America and Boland Balloons.
"I loved working at Post Mills Airport because every day was different," he said. "I could definitely see myself doing more hot air ballooning in the future."
Along with his internship, Long has enjoyed his time at Emmanuel and in Boston. At Emmanuel, Long is president of EC Superfans, a Peer Leader, a member of the EC Ultimate Frisbee team, a member of Saints Giving Back, a student worker in the library and a Resident Assistant in St. Ann Hall. He credits his extensive involvement on campus with preparing him for the rigorous schedule at the airport, along with readying him with an openness and confidence to try new things. He said he also found himself using many of the communication theories learned in the classroom with customers at the airport. Long advises other students to definitely take on an internship.
"Go big. Go bold. I tried to think as far out of the box as I could when selecting my internship. It was a little crazy, but an incredible, unforgettable experience that I don't regret at all. An internship is the time to take risks, without giving thoughts to finances or other limitations. You never know what kind of amazing experiences you're going to have," he said.
After graduation, Long would like to give back to the community in some capacity, and organizations like the Peace Corps, Teach for America and the U.S. Military have crossed his mind.
"I have a passion for interacting with diverse groups of people and hope that I can continue that wherever I go and do," Long said.