The Great Internship Disaster

By Naychelle Lucas

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If anyone has the impression that because it’s your senior year, it will be the easiest, here’s you’re first lesson: you’re seriously mistaken. The first semester of my last year at the University of Massachusetts was by far the busiest, most challenging and stressful semester I’ve endured as a college student.

I, like many, didn’t come to school in September thinking it was going to be a breeze, but I did think, “Classes, exams, extracurriculars. Been there. Done that. How hard could it be?” Since then, I’ve learned that senior year is like a cumulative exam on everything you have learned in class, at home and in life so far.

Since freshman orientation, we’ve all been taught the importance behind decision-making, preparation, networking and communication. At UMass, we’re bombarded with messages of success and how to achieve it. At times, it almost feels like Survivor at UMass, where only the strong will be praised, while the weak are voted off the island.

And unfortunately, as stressful as that can be, that lesson is absolutely right. I should know, as last semester, I had to use those skills to overcome what I now call “The Great Internship Disaster of 2010.”

My three years as a journalism student at UMass have taught me that if you want to be a journalist, the one thing more important than having a byline in your school paper is having an internship.

Coming into senior year I was a little discouraged I had waited so long but thought, “Better late than never.” I wanted a position that would allow me to write, but also do some video filming, editing and producing. That is how I became an intern at a film company in Northampton, Mass.

From the very beginning my relationship with the owner of the film company was unorthodox. After applying to the position on the Career Services e-recruiting site, I spoke with him on the phone a couple of times late in the evening. He continuously expressed interests in my interning for him but never officially offered me a position. Meanwhile, I had gone on several interviews with other organizations and within a couple of days, two had offered me an internship.

I knew working for an established filmmaker could gain me great networking opportunities and access to a lot of resources, but I didn’t exactly have the position yet. In fact, I was told it could be a couple more weeks until I could even get a face-to-face interview.

With the other offers on the table and time running out, I was put to my first test. Do I let the other offers go and wait for a possible position in the film company, or do I pass on the maybe and accept a definite position?

My internship supervisor and journalism professor B.J. Roche had always told me that persistence was the key to any successful career. So, I decided to send an e-mail to the filmmaker explaining to him my situation and urging him to let me know the status of my application. My persistence paid off, and I was offered the position as an intern right away.

I was eager to get started and even though it was late September, I was unable to begin my internship for another few weeks because the company was deep into their latest project. When I did get into the office, the meeting with the owner, my now on-site supervisor, was brief and overwhelming, to say the least.

He told me that the only other intern would not be available this semester and that I would be working in the office alone much of the time. There were thousands of hours of video to go through, but I was assured that I would be taught everything I needed to know, be introduced to people and get some hands on experience. Eventually.

I did learn how to log tapes, but after that, I was pretty much on my own. In addition to classes, I dedicated 25 hours a week to the position, which was mostly spent in the office by myself, watching old tapes. Before I knew it, it was October and time was running out. I was discouraged about the lack of opportunities I was receiving and was honestly a little tired of eating lunch alone.

So, I did what I had to get the internship in the first place and told my on-site supervisor how I felt. He guaranteed me that he would try to make time for me but in between shooting, editing, creating budgets, hiring staff members and meeting with producers, that never happened.

At this point, I’m frustrated. However, I’m afraid to just drop this internship, because I’m a senior, the time left to build my resume has shortened, and I don’t want to be seen as a quitter. Plus, who is to say that I will even get another internship opportunity by the end of the already-dwindling semester.

Then came another set of questions I tested myself on. Do I stick with my current internship and hope I get recognized as a team player who deserves some time and attention, or do I quit now and hope I can get another position before the semester is over?

I lost a lot of sleep stressing over this dilemma.

And finally, I decided to end my abusive relationship with the film company’s internship.

After digging up some old contacts and sending a few well thought out e-mails, I started a healthier bond with one of my original internship choices at Amherst Community Television.

Within the first week of my new internship, I was completing work I had been hoping to do all semester. I attended a camera workshop, a Final Cut Pro workshop and met different people who I will most likely work with in the future.

Disastrous, though it may have been for half a semester, my internship experience luckily panned out. And in some ways, I feel very lucky, but in other ways, I know that things will always work out as long as you take action when situations are not meeting your expectations.

Naychelle Lucas is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached [email protected]