Emily Tebbetts did something that millions of other people can only dream of: spend an entire day in Nashville this fall with six-time Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter Taylor Swift.

That was part of her reward for beating 2,700 other hopefuls in a Sony contest to be Swift’s personal photographer for a day. But there’s more: She also stars in a nationally televised ad that documents the experience with Swift and Sony’s new NEX 5R camera.

Pretty heady stuff for a 21-year-old who had never taken a photography class.

“I had a good feeling about winning,” says Tebbetts, whose photography hobby dates back to her senior year in high school. All three judges included her portfolio in their top five lists—including America’s Next Top Model photographer Nigel Barker, who gave her valuable tips and wished her well in her career.

“My final contest interview was with 15 people, and, because I had gone on interviews for two co-ops and taken a public-speaking class, I felt really prepared,” she says.

For the immediate future, the fourth-year communications major from Westfield, N.J., hopes to turn a new photography opportunity into a directed-study project, in which she would gain more professional experience using Sony equipment on photo shoots. 

As for the long term, she hasn’t nailed down a final career choice. “And I’m OK with that,” she says, crediting her Harvard Medical School and Susan G. Komen for the Cure co-op experiences for giving her the confidence and skills needed to succeed when she makes that decision.