What makes internships so great anyway? They’re supposed to give you experience, knowledge and connections, but that isn’t why I remember my internship. While I learned a lot about the journalism industry during my time at the Houston Chronicle, my year there was memorable for other reasons. It was the most humbling uplifting, drama-filled, people-filled, exasperating and fulfilling experience of my life.
Working several hours a day to produce a student newspaper and news website with a handful of other high school seniors wasn’t easy. I spent most of my time frantically editing stories on deadline deadline or walking around the Houston Chronicle’s downtown office with my fellow interns, peeking into the newsroom, observing budget meetings and talking with mentors on how to make our ideas better.
Crammed in a small classroom next to the sports department, our rag-tag group experienced the drama of college acceptances, prom, the all-too-real plight of senioritis and graduation together.
The group couldn’t have been more diverse: overachievers and underachievers, privileged and underprivileged. The first time I saw my team, I remember thinking, “Oh please, let them be working with anyone but me,” terrified that I’d be unable to find common ground. But in the end, one thing united us—we spent three hours together every day our senior year of high school.
The world of journalism is fast-paced. You have to learn to adapt quickly, and boy, did I ever. I was thrown into a situation I had never experienced before; I was one of the most advanced writers in the program. It became a chore to edit papers when I had to fix the same comma mistakes five times in one paragraph.
On one of my first days as co-editor, I was going over an article another intern wrote. I distinctly remember sitting down next to her, and being shocked that she had no idea what a run-on sentence was. How was she even accepted by the Chronicle? Didn’t they have higher standards?
But then, as I was getting to know my co-interns, I realized what a huge opportunity this internship was. College was a guarantee in my case, both because my parents wouldn’t accept less (and were already discussing grad school). Besides, I always knew I wanted to continue my education. For my fellow interns, though, higher education wasn’t always an option. While I went home and complained about these guys to my parents, they often went home to an empty houses because their parents were working—sometimes multiple jobs.
Not only did this internship look good on a college application for all of us, but it also exposed us to new people, perspectives and voices. I was introduced to the “Nae Nae” (While I unsuccessfully attempted to make them appreciate country music), McDonalds and the reality that teen pregnancy can happen to anyone.
If I’m really being honest, I didn’t learn as much as I first hoped I would from my internship experience. I didn’t really improve my writing skills, and after a while the internship just seemed like an excuse to leave school at lunchtime. What I didn’t realize was that I was very slowly adapting. I’m not the same person I was when I started the internship, as melodramatic as that sounds. I learned to be less judgmental, more appreciative and more understanding of others’ situations.
That’s what will make me a great journalist, not my writing skills. We always hear that journalism is a diverse field. So why don’t we spend time improving our people skills, learning how to get along with people who aren’t the same as us? Journalism isn’t about the minority of people who are just like me, it’s about real people. And that’s exactly what these interns were. They weren’t perfect. But they (almost) always showed up with smiles on their faces, and that made fixing all of the misplaced commas worth it.