Unlikely internship lessons

I was extremely excited when I first found out that I would be interning at The Philadelphia Inquirer two days a week this past spring semester, despite the fact that it meant I’d be missing meal equiv two days a week. But, as my parents and professors promised me, it would be worth the experience to be published in one of the top newspapers in the country. However, within the first day, I knew that the journalism life just wasn’t for me, and I wanted out — immediately. The pressure of being in a newsroom and under the constant scrutiny of editors and some of the top staff of The Inquirer terrified me, to say the least. For me, the internship was only worth the time and effort to learn that writing for a newspaper is the last thing I want to do with my life.

I used to want to write for the sports section of a paper or magazine, because I was smart enough to know that my dreams of reporting on ESPN most likely wouldn’t come true. But as soon as I got to Philadelphia and sat down at my desk and received my first assignment, I knew that my real dreams lay far outside the realm of a newsroom.

Each day, I went into Philadelphia at 8 a.m. only to be told as soon as I got into the newsroom that I would have to wait four or five hours to be told my assignment for the day. I could only check Tumblr and Twitter so much, and it started to really annoy me that I wouldn’t be able to spend my time more effectively, and that I had to sit at a desk pretending to be busy for the first half of my day. Usually by the time I was given an assignment, it would almost be time for me to leave, at which point my editor would try to get me to stay, never remembering that I had to be back on campus by 6 p.m. for “Footloose” rehearsal every night. I always felt like I could be doing so much more with my time, and it was unfair that I wasn’t getting the experience I wanted.

If someone asked me to go into the city, I’d assume they meant New York City, and I’d be totally up for it. But every time I left for my internship, I was going to Philadelphia — not nearly as glamorous and definitely not as familiar. I had to drive from my house in Ewing to a PATCO station in Haddonfield, N.J. I hopped the train into Philadelphia — a commute I was not happy about making twice a week. I would have much rather had an internship in New York City, somewhere not only more familiar, but a place that would better suit my needs and real dreams (fashion public relations or editorial work).

Yes, I was published in The Philadelphia Inquirer. And yes, the public relations manager of the Philadelphia Eagles contacted me to write for him. And yes, I also covered the Phillies opening day for philly.com. While all of these internship perks are “cool” and “exciting” and “good for my résumé,” and while I’m still grateful I had these opportunities, it might not have been worth the fact that I didn’t look forward to going to my internship every day. I was seldom excited to receive a work email or do an assignment. I was scared in the city, confused by some of my instructions and hurt when my writing was criticized for doing exactly what my editors told me to do.

So in the end, I received four credits and multiple bylines in one of the nation’s top newspapers, but I would’ve been much happier getting coffee for Jenna Lyons in J. Crew’s headquarters. Most people get internships that affirm that they’re meant to be working in the field of their choice, but for me, my internship taught me exactly what I don’t want to be doing when I graduate.