How To Survive Your College Internship: Journalism Edition

College was probably one of the most, if not the most, trying and overwhelming periods of my life. Being an extremely shy person who’d rather talk to a piece of paper than an actual human being, it was a pretty difficult choice to become a journalism student.

I knew deep inside that one day, I’d have to do interviews, mingle with strangers, and travel to places I’ve never been to and that scared me a lot. But I’ve always, always, loved stringing words together and sharing stories, so I told myself that come my first day of college, I would suck it up and [try to] be a social butterfly.

Fast-forward and three years into the grueling schedules of studying journalism, I didn’t realize that making friends in college and shooting live news broadcasts with my classmates was the least of my problems.

Talking to strangers requires a long period of intense preparation for someone like me. I need time to get used to you, to build up the courage to say something, to break the ice, or simply just to function around you. But come our mandatory internship for 3rd-year students, I was required to be a social person and be an actual journalist, all in 200 hours.

Believe me when I say that it was not easy. I had so much doubt in myself but I survived, despite my cold, clammy hands, during the entire 2 months I spent with the lifestyle department of a newspaper company.

But here are some helpful tips that I learned during my internship that may come in handy when you enter the media industry:

1. Smile

I may not be the first one to talk to you (if I’m new somewhere or you’re new somewhere) but I’d smile at you. Smiling requires no words spoken (no chances of rambling) or awkward gestures—just a simple lift on both corners of the mouth. I can do that, so I did. I smiled from the very first day I got to work. I was shaking, my hands were all cold and sweaty, and I couldn’t breathe much, but I smiled and greeted my bosses and editors. I was scared as heck but putting up a brave front by smiling and getting one in return eased my nerves and gave me the courage I needed to introduce myself. It was my way of telling them that I was happy to be there as a part of their team because I was.

2. Ask questions. It’s totally okay!

My dad once told me that I need to be assertive, to put my foot out there and just do my thing. I’m not a very confident person nor am I good conversationalist but I urged myself to try because I wanted to contribute to my department. There was a tiny spark of doubt in me that I’d be deemed clueless about how a newspaper company works, that I have no clue what I’m doing, or worse, that I’m in the wrong team if I ask so many questions. But with my desire to learn more than what I learned in the university with my professors, I pushed myself to be inquisitive and it paid off. I was able to get into good talks with my editors and the senior writers. I started to open up and be more confident in talking to strangers. Soon after, I went from arranging press kits to assisting in photo shoots and eventually going to events to cover and create articles. It felt amazing because it also led me to do better in doing ambush interviews and sit-down talks.

3. Learn

Whenever I got breaks from doing stories, I asked for permission to explore other areas such as setting the stories on pages or doing the layout. My internship taught me to learn beyond what I thought I knew—to seek lessons when I can, to take notes from how other reporters do their work, to find my own voice in writing, and to know to unlearn and relearn things.

I finished my 200-hour internship, still with shaking knees and cold hands, as my editor handed me my sealed evaluation. I never did find out what my score was, but I didn’t have to. I was happy with the experience and the opportunity to write for them even after I graduated. I struggled a lot at the beginning. But once I learned to let my excitement for writing overpower my fear of talking to people and being in new places, I realized that out of all life lessons I should learn, I only needed to believe in myself that I can do it. And I did, and so can you.