Putting the ‘intern’ in international
by Sarah Kitteringham
For those in programs that require internships, the thought of taking a job out of the city is either frightening or exciting. For me, it was both. As a third year bachelor of communications student, I knew that taking an unpaid international internship would be an amazing opportunity, but it was hardly financially sound. Not only did the credits themselves cost several thousand dollars, but living expenses, a flight, insurance and a work visa were all costly obstacles.
So, I started working — hard. After deciding I wanted an internship at Decibel magazine in Philadelphia, Pa., I knew that sacrifice would be necessary. This materialized in the three part-time jobs I worked even before the internship was given to me, a necessary move to pursue the costly expenditures of having my dream job. Looking back, I realize that if I hadn’t done so, I would be in a pile of debt that would have diminished the experience.
Applying for and being granted an internship at Decibel magazine was very nerve-racking. However, an opportunity arose through a journalism class when I interviewed the editor- in-chief of Decibel; a deliberate move that made applying much less stressful. Considering I was already an intensely committed metal head with a portfolio that included interviews with many of Decibel’s cover artists, having that extra something cemented my value. Thankfully, they saw this and by January the necessary first set of papers had been signed.
After filling out all the paperwork through the international office and the work experience office, it was obvious that my funds would be lacking. Although I’d managed to save several hundred dollars a month from September until April, panic mode set in; how would I afford rent, food, and travel in an expensive American city without a paying internship?
Again, opportunities arose. I went to www.couchsurfing.org, where I’d had much success when backpacking across Europe. I easily found roommates who lived within walking distance of work and who were sympathetic to my budget. Next, the Global Television Scholarship for International Work Experience became available for journalism students and I immediately applied. Thankfully, they awarded me the scholarship just a few weeks after I touched down in Philadelphia.
Looking back, I realize that the months of being ripping-my-hair-out busy were worth it. Although few people would attempt to survive eight months with three jobs and five classes, the experience justified the sacrifice. I got to spend the summer in Philadelphia, travel to New York, Washington and Baltimore, see several amazing concerts, meet a ton of people in the music writing industry, and generally have a blast. Though I’m slightly in debt from the experience, I obtained two freelance writing jobs, a ton of friends and a plethora of memories that make it inconsequential. Taking the internship was one of the best things I’ve ever done.