Experience. That’s what I’m told employers are looking for. And that’s what I knew I needed. This past summer, I had my first-ever internship. And let me tell you, it was some experience. And all of that experience didn’t merely come from the internship alone, because it was more than just the internship for me.
Last spring, I had completed a whole year of being the Assistant News Editor at The Oswegonian, was named to be the News Editor for my senior year, and had taken multiple writing and journalism classes to the point that I was ready for some field work. When the opportunity for an internship at The Legislative Gazette in Albany came up, I grabbed it, got accepted relatively easily, and knew it would be a good opportunity.
I live three hours from Albany. Luckily, I have an aunt and uncle that live there so I was able to stay with them. I live on a dirt road in the woods. So I had my parents drive me 12 miles to Fulton, where I took a Centro bus to Syracuse, and then a Greyhound bus to Albany. That was the first time I had ever taken a Centro bus, a transportation bus, and it was also the first time I had traveled by myself. So, just getting to my internship was both a challenge and a valuable experience.
As earlier mentioned, I have lived on a dirt road in the woods my entire life, so spending two months in Albany was a booming metropolis for me. I had to lock the doors all the time, make sure to close the shades, and be weary of shady areas of the city, as I decided to walk home from work every day. I learned how to navigate the city and was eventually able to find my way around.
Being a history minor, I was also able to explore many of the historic locations in Albany and the immediate vicinity. I visited the grave sites of U.S. presidents Chester Arthur, Martin Van Buren, and Franklin Roosevelt. Now along with my goal to see all 50 states, I am now on a mission to see the grave site of every president.
The Legislative Gazette covers the state legislature and state politics. During my time at the internship, my editor informally made me the environmental beat reporter. Probably two-thirds of the stories I wrote were environmentally related, so as a result, I was in constant contact with the Department of Environmental Conservation, and through the DEC alone, was able to better understand state laws and regulations of state agencies. One article in particular, had me researching the state constitution itself and citing it in the article because it had to be addressed. In an article involving a lawsuit filed to fight teacher tenure laws in New York state, I had to read the preliminary statement of the lawsuit itself to see if New York tenure laws were being sued for the same reason as California’s, which filed a similar lawsuit a month before. I had to again read sections of New York’s and California’s state constitutions to see if there was a difference. The lawsuit in California challenged that the tenure law interfered with a student’s state constitutional right to a “sound education.” The wording in New York’s constitution was different, so the lawsuit was filed to challenge tenure laws on different grounds. It’s really a simple thing but it made all the difference in making sure the information about New York’s lawsuit was factual and accurate.
Aside from law, government, and politics, I of course learned a tremendous amount about the modern fundamentals of journalism. As mentioned previously, I had never been outside of a college newspaper office as far as field work goes. So, needless to say, I was quite nervous about starting this internship. One of the biggest challenges was adapting to the fast-paced world that modern journalism has. At The Oswegonian, I was used to writing one article a week, sometimes two when I was the Assistant News Editor. At The Legislative Gazette, I wrote on average, four or five articles a week (a week being four days.) Every week, I found myself scrambling to get everything finished before the noon deadline on Thursday. After a time however, I improved my time management throughout the week so I wouldn’t have to take work home to work on it or come into the office a half an hour earlier to make sure I could finish everything. I became more organized, wrote down the stories I had to do and who I called and what time and what else I had to do so I knew the appropriate time I needed to complete everything in a clean, accurate, well-written matter.
Like any internship should, my time at The Legislative Gazette really improved my communication skills and confidence. A lot of people were surprised when I told them the first time that I was studying journalism. I am really one of the shiest journalists out there really. I was one of the quietest people in my high school but I did all the things that a shy guy wouldn’t do. I acted in plays for seven years, which included two lead roles, I sing and play music regularly on stages in front of hundreds of people all the time, and I’m working on a degree in a field where 90 percent of the job is talking to strangers and asking them questions. I can honestly say that I did the bare minimum of communicating with sources during my freshman and sophomore year of college, but did a little better during my junior year. It was hard for me to adjust. I knew it wasn’t President Deborah Stanley anymore, it was Andrew Cuomo. It wasn’t the president of Student Association anymore; it was the speaker of the State Assembly. I talked to business leaders, state senators and assemblymen, police officers, governor candidates, and more important individuals. I even got to see Governor Cuomo when he signed the bill legalizing medical marijuana Now I know I can talk to anyone about any subject and sound confident and have the authority that a journalist needs to have to be able to conduct a thorough interview. And again, I improved my communication outside the internship. I had to ask workers questions at bus and train terminals, talk to and befriend the fellow interns, adjust to close quarters with my aunt and uncle. It just makes me feel more confident than ever.
So, I’ve completed my first internship. I don’t regret doing it at all. It was something I needed to do for myself, for every single thing I did that was related to the internship was completely outside of my comfort zone. That’s why I believe I learned so much. I finally pushed myself just a little further on multiple levels and left the office on the last day feeling proud of myself, my accomplishments, and the profession I will be going into. After all, it’s all about the experience. Experience spawns knowledge, confidence, power, and new outlooks. I’m not only more confident, but I am also much more excited about this last school year than I was in May. I have taken on the position of News Editor and started my second internship, as an editorial intern at the OSWEGO Alumni Magazine. After the incredible experience I’ve had this summer, I can’t wait to see what I will learn from these new tasks before me, and how I will think and feel when I come out the other side.
One thought on “College: It’s More Than Just The Classroom”
Wonderful post, Luke, and it sounds like a wonderful experience.