EL PASO — A year ago I was told I couldn’t get an internship because I was too young. I was a freshman at the University of Texas at El Paso, and interns should be junior or upcoming seniors. That day I made a decision that my age, or should I say lack of, was not going to limit me. I was not going to let my age become the border that would stop me from getting where I wanted to be.
I’ve been a reporter since I was a freshman in high school, and the idea of not writing when I got to UTEP seemed crazy. As soon as I heard that there was an opportunity for a summer internship, I was on it. I even got a call for an interview, but as soon as I told the editor of a newspaper in Colorado that I was a freshman, that conversation pretty much ended there. Thankfully, the internship director, Zita Arocha, offered me the opportunity to intern with Borderzine that summer, and I was able to build up my portfolio even more.
Interning for Borderzine allowed me to write and thoroughly research subjects that I would not have done otherwise. I worked one on one with long time professional journalists, as well as assist in a summer high school journalism program. Although Borderzine was a great experience, once it was over, I needed more.
In the Fall I sent out my resume to the El Paso Times and was offered a semester long internship as a feature writer. Of course I accepted, and it has been a challenge, but above all a great learning experience.
I feel I have improved my writing, my interview skills and my time management, but what I’ve learned goes well beyond just that.
One of the first things I’ve noticed is that people care about who you work for. When I called people to try and get interviews for Borderzine, it would take weeks for them to get back to me, even if I was very persistent. When I identified myself as a reporter with the El Paso Times, I had callbacks within the hour, and at most by the next day. This upset me because I realized that yes people are busy, but they also pay attention and ignore who they want. Had I known that when I was with Borderzine I would have called them every five minutes if that were what it took for them to take me seriously.
Interns sometimes are seen as just that. Editors usually give you the articles no one else wants to write, and you don’t have much choice as to what you write. I had to write an article this semester that I did not feel very comfortable with because of my beliefs. However, I am a journalist and as such that means my feelings and beliefs don’t really matter. They shouldn’t be reflected in the article to begin with. That’s what opinion pieces are for, not news stories. My job as a journalist is to be objective. I’ve had to see my job as if I was a lawyer representing a cold criminal. I may not believe he is innocent. I may think he is the worst person on this planet, but my job is to defend him and make sure I do it well.
Lastly, and probably the most valuable thing I’ve learned is that people will only take you as seriously as you take yourself. Even if I’m an intern that doesn’t mean I have to write articles I don’t enjoy. I saw that the articles I was writing weren’t challenging me the way I wanted them to, so I asked my editor for something more challenging, and I got it. Had I not told her, she would have probably thought articles on events was all I could handle. I had to show her that I know I can handle a challenge. The same principal applies to getting internships. I could have easily just given up when the Newspaper in Colorado said I was too young, but I choose to open a window for myself when a door was shut.
These internships have taught me that my borders are what I make them to be, not what people think they should be.