Finding direction, passion through internships

Kelly and Dave Coulier

Goddard with Dave Coulier, who played Uncle Joey on sitcom Full House.

Kelly Goddard, WJXT-Channel 4

Waking up at 3 a.m. should never be on top of anyone’s to-do list—and neither should being enrolled in 18 credit hours. However, as an intern for WJXT-Channel 4 news, a student at Flagler College, part-time waitress and the social media editor for The Gargoyle, my priorities were everywhere.

I started out working at The Morning Show. Since I was required to arrive by 5 a.m., my mornings consisted of stumbling out of bed at an unreasonable hour, haphazardly brushing my hair and attempting to put on my ‘going out in public’ face. If I were feeling really ambitious, maybe I’d find time to grab a small breakfast before heading out. Maybe.

While many college students spent nights partying and sleeping, I spent late nights and early mornings were jam packed with studying, working on group projects and finishing homework.

Fortunately, most nights I was able pass out by 11 p.m. or midnight. Three hours of sleep was hardly enough to function, and looking back on it, I’m not sure how I coped. There were a few days where I would have to leave the library or edit lab, drive to my apartment, shower and head straight to my internship.

It became so incredibly overwhelming that my family, living only an hour away in Jacksonville, would get to see me a couple hours out of the month.

My executive producer and adviser, Stacey Readout, taught me many valuable traits, including how to write for news, how to use certain programs such as ENPS to track the stories and times on air, how to print and prompt show times, how to guest host and much more. I was even able to shadow reporters and help news anchors on location shoots.

I went into this internship completely clueless. For one, I had never stepped foot in a newsroom nor used any of the same programs the producers and reporters do. So walking into everything was kind of like a mini heart attack. However, after a little time and a ton of practice things became much easier. I was able to write stories for the morning show, learn different styles of interviewing, set up equipment and assist with social media.

Interning helped me learn more than I ever could in a classroom. It not only prepared me for the real world, but it opened my eyes to the inside world of news and I absolutely loved it. I even had the opportunity to meet some pretty cool people, including Dave Coulier, who played Uncle Joey in Full House, one of my favorite sitcoms growing up.

While I may sound like a crazy person, I can assure you that the horror story I presented in the first few paragraphs was not as bad as it seemed, and I most certainly do not seek pity from anybody by writing this article.

Sure, I struggled with major anxiety and balancing my life being a full-time student, intern and waitress on the weekends—but the reason I continued to pursue my goal is because there is nothing better than the experience. The people at WJXT truly displayed their passion for the business and were constantly willing to help my knowledge of my field grow.

They were nothing short of helpful, encouraging and hard-working. Not to mention how family-oriented they are—exactly what you envision when watching a few of them on television.

Of course, it was not easy. There were times when I would have a panic attack because I was worried that I was doing something the wrong way. There were times during breaking news where it would seem like complete chaos with people running around and yelling to get the latest update. The harsh reality of being a journalist is the competitive nature and fast-paced atmosphere of the field. On the bright side, when you have such a positive group of people around you, everything else doesn’t matter.

Life is not perfect. There are going to be times that you mess up and are scared to take the next step. As college students, we are at the perfect time to explore the world and seek what we truly desire out of our lives. Interning provides the perfect opportunity to assist you in your journey. In fact, ANY internship experience you immerse yourself in—good, bad, large-scale or small opens another new door for you.

As a returning intern for WJXT, I am still learning and there are times when I am still nervous to do certain jobs. I will never know until I try, but I will continue trying and taking steps forward until I completely figure out what I am best at. So what are you waiting for? Try something new, intern, travel, learn. The world has endless possibilities.



Seidel with fellow staff members and interns at New York-based DJ for a Cure.

Heather Seidel, DJ For a Cure

Hugging my parents goodbye, I stepped into the airport terminal and didn’t glance back. Not because I was ready to move on and be a real adult, but because I knew I’d start swelling up with tears. Thoughts of my new responsibilities began to overcome me: paying rent with an unpaid internship, coping with a completely new environment and being alone in New York City.

I’d be lying if I said that adjusting to New York City culture was easy or immediate. My only ties to the city were with Andrew, my long-term boyfriend who had moved to NYC just one month before. Being a butcher at a Michelen-ranked restaurant meant long hours for him, and a lot of alone time for me. Andrew and I have been going long distance for five years strong, so being alone wasn’t a new experience, but being alone in a huge city was.

The first week I was terrified to leave Queens and commute into Manhattan alone. In Florida, public transportation has a very negative stigma. Women traveling alone is considered taboo. These two factors struck me with a crippling fear that’d I’d be assaulted or approached while taking the metro.

But every day, I saw hundreds of women traveling out by themselves and eventually told myself “If they can do it, I can do it too.” I’m sure my mom nearly fainted when I told her I was commuting to Manhattan by myself for the internship. I was nervous too, but peeking out of the metro car window and glancing at that skyline provided me with the reassurance I needed that I was in for an incredible adventure.

Although my official title was “Marketing Intern,”  I did so much more with DJ For A Cure. While some may feel aggravated to do something they didn’t sign up for, I jumped at every opportunity and wedged myself into others. By the time I left the city, I had eaten lunch with a New York Times reporter, designed a flyer for Wendy Williams’ birthday party and built relationships that I will never forget.

For a fast-paced city, my internship was surprisingly casual. We met three times a week at a different location every time. Sometimes we’d settle in a small cafe off Brooklyn Bridge and other times we’d meet at WIX Lounge in Chelsea.Once we even met in a vacant building, its walls converted into a grandiose urban art display.

Being surrounded by this kind of lifestyle and culture was completely new to me. Even though I was used to a simple, clean and modern approach to design, Quiana wanted our media to be bright, irregular and funky.

Intimidated by her original flare, it took time and patience to adjust my style to suit her own. In the end, I had the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and learn more about a demographic that contrasted from my own.

At our meetings, we’d come up with social media marketing campaigns, draft up press releases, contact local celebrities for events and eat cookies together like a big family. By the end of our meetings, I’d have a few graphics designed, an idea for a marketing campaign and coworkers laughing at me for the chocolate smeared all over my face.

Before I flew off to New York City, I experienced quite a bit of disdain from the adults in my life. Many of them rolled their eyes and told me there was no future for nonprofits. Some even told me: “Oh, so you don’t really have an internship”.

After two successful events sponsored by huge lifestyle brands like Puma, Krink and ALife and raising an incredible amount of money for blood cancers, I knew that they were wrong.

It was enthralling being involved with a mission that genuinely helped others, a mission bigger than myself. I discovered that I have a passion for helping others, a passion for the nonprofit sector and a passion for all of the opportunities that New York City has to offer. Returning to the city after I graduate isn’t a possibility  – it’s a definite.


Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 2.55.38 AM

Epitropoulos interviewing Tom Majdanics, CEO of Kipp Jacksonville.

Alexa Epitropoulos, Jacksonville Business Journal

I never thought that I’d have my own desk and office phone at 21. But when I started my internship in June at the Jacksonville Business Journal, one of American City Business Journals’ 44 locations, I had my own corner of the office and a paycheck that I took gratefully.

It’s pretty rare as a rising senior in college to find a paid internship, which is why, when I was told in April that I had received one of the eight paid positions nationwide, I was relieved. I had spent months applying for internships and was becoming increasingly frantic.

Being paid to write, conduct interviews, take photos and produce videos wasn’t just useful as a resume builder. As a paid staff member, I had real responsibility and nothing to fall back on. If I pitched an idea or was given an assignment, I had to follow through and get content ready for the weekly print edition and daily email blasts in the early morning and afternoon.

The responsibility came with perks. I was able to report on interesting stories, from a Jacksonville-based Project Runway contestant to the emerging soccer scene in North Florida. I was on the field when the Jacksonville Jaguars unveiled their obscenely large scoreboards. I learned technical and creative aspects of news reporting and was able to work with a talented staff.

The newsroom was small enough that I was able to learn from – and grow with – the team. I worked with both the Editor-in-Chief and the Managing Editor on a summer-long project. I tagged along with reporters, sometimes acting as back-up or assisting with multimedia. I developed a close friendship with many on staff, including the staff photographer, who taught me about the dynamics of the industry and offered guidance constantly.

One of my biggest jobs – and the one I knew the least about – was promoting content through social media. On my second day, I was set up with TweetDeck and a basic explanation of what to post and when to post. Each social media platform, however, was different. I learned the technical aspects of social media, but, more than that, I learned how social media is driving journalism and storytelling forward.

Social media wasn’t – and still isn’t entirely – the direction I want to go with my career. Writing is still my passion and I was able to pursue that during my internship as well, writing short news stories, features, Q&A’s and a major cover story that was featured in one of the September print editions about the growth of charter schools in Duval County.

Learning how to promote stories and attract page views has, however, been valuable in moving forward as a reporter. With each story I wrote, video I produced or slideshow I put together, there was a social media strategy for getting it out there.

Walking away from what had essentially become a full-time job for me was difficult.  In some ways, the internship made me nostalgic for the freedom that college journalism affords – in other ways, it made me impatient for life as an employed reporter.

Interning taught me how to take the skills I have developed in school and adapt them into the workplace. More importantly, it made me understand that there was a world after college.

In any internship, it’s important to take on tasks you normally wouldn’t consider. Go outside of your comfort zone. Write stories that are outside of your realm of experience. Internships aren’t about getting coffee for executives anymore – it’s about getting experience that will land a first job or launch your career.

As an intern, making mistakes is a given. During my first few weeks, I made several.  But I came into my element as I made it through the first hurdles. Seeing the finished product – a cover story with my byline – is rewarding, but more rewarding were the relationships I cultivated and the skills I took with me.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Be the first to comment on "Finding direction, passion through internships"

Leave a comment