Brigham Young University communications students landed some interesting jobs over the summer.

One film major acted as an extra alongside Hollywood stars Nicholas Cage and Drew Barrymore. A graduate earned a full-time position as a news producer at an Idaho TV station after working at "PrimeTime Live" with Diane Sawyer. And a broadcast major found himself in the back seat of a car chatting with "World News Tonight" anchor Peter Jennings about his brother's LDS mission.Students seeking professional experience outside Utah often sacrifice vacation time to enroll in a BYU communications department internship program in New York City.

With the expansion of the successful program to Los Angeles this year, even more students grabbed the opportunity to gain practical experience in their respective fields.

"The internship plays a critical role in our program," says Laurie Wilson, communications department chair. "There's nothing quite like an experience in industry capitals like L.A. and New York to help students integrate the theory and principle of their field with the actual practice of the real profession." The New York program most recently gained attention when two of its graduates won spots as David Letterman's personal assistants. Wilson says the program consistently helps BYU students land great jobs in New York. The addition of Los Angeles to the 21-year-old program seemed like a logical step to extending more opportunities to students, Wilson said.

"The L.A. addition came about because BYU's Department of Communications combined resources this year with the Department of Theater and Film. They're such similar disciplines that joining forces resulted in some great experiences for our students, she said.

One such student, Judah Houser, a senior from Bountiful majoring in film and multimedia, spent his summer in California as part of the L.A. program. Working at Sony in its game show division, Houser learned how to create promotional spots for the company's new cable channel that shows reruns of "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right."

In his spare time, Houser did extra work in movies and commercials. He recently worked on soon-to-be-released films starring Cage and Barrymore. Houser says these experiences will help him reach his professional goal: to create special effects for motion pictures.

"The internship helped me get my foot in the door, and now I'm trying to squeeze the rest of my body through," Houser quipped. "Internships are all about experience and connections - meeting people who can get you where you want to go."

That was certainly the case for Deon Youd, who interned at "PrimeTime Live" with Diane Sawyer, assisting in researching and consolidating stories for national broadcast. After her internship, Youd's experience on a national level helped her land a job as a news producer of station KIFI's 10 p.m. news in Idaho Falls.

She says BYU prepared her for her internship and the job she has now. "It is neat to know that what I learned at BYU is not just fluff," Youd says. "It taught me what I need to know to be a better journalist and news producer."

But all preparation aside, some internships offer the thrill of unexpected surprises. Matt Karpowitz, who interned at "World News Tonight," worked on the program's "Closer Look" segment. One afternoon while driving home from a day of filming, Karpowitz found himself talking with the show's host in the back seat.

"It was pretty exciting to be talking to Mr. Jennings," says Karpowitz, a broadcast major from Kansas. "He's a very nice person in real life and is easy to talk with."

His internship now over, Karpowitz says he was impressed to find BYU has a good reputation in the working world.

"The reason BYU students get the opportunities they do is because the university has a favorable and respected reputation for consistency - BYU produces people who work hard."