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Internship vs. University: What I learned as an intern

Meld Magazine

Mon Jun 09 2014

MEDIA and Communications student Chrisella Sentena did not know what to expect when she first started at Meld as an intern. Twelve weeks and a few valuable lessons later, she shares about her experience.

Being enrolled in a Media and Communications degree, I was well versed with the state of the media industry and its hostility to job seekers.

I had dreams of becoming an author. Journalism was my back-up plan; a way to convince my skeptical parents that there really is such a thing as a writing job that pays. I had no idea that Plan A and Plan B were going to be equally tough.

While at university, I had a light bulb moment at the beginning of my second year. I had been enrolled in a subject exploring Australian media, and had just spent 12 weeks listening to media experts either commenting on the state of turmoil the journalism industry is in – or the next-to-zero job prospects for print media.

I was tried of learning about media frameworks and regurgitating McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” (media students, you’ll know what I mean). Hearing how Arts students will end up serving fries for their Commerce counterparts didn’t lighten my mood either. I didn’t want to ‘learn’ how to think anymore; I was desperate for an encouraging tap on the back accompanying a “hey, it’s not that depressing” and to be engaged in a practical job where I could actually think, and write.

So as soon as I heard about an internship subject, I quickly grabbed the opportunity. I applied to Meld, and honestly didn’t know what to expect. I was equal parts scared that my lack of writing skills won’t be sufficient and excited to get a real learning experience in journalism. Being the chronic over-thinker that I am, I was fully expecting a rejection after I blabbered during the interview.

They didn’t. I was actually accepted and I couldn’t believe it. The first few weeks were a fish-out-of-water experience where I wasn’t fully sure what I was going about.

My first news story was on the University of Melbourne’s international rankings. At the time, I didn’t know who to contact, how to contact them, let alone what I should actually say to them. I remembered Googling aimlessly for related contacts, just in case the University contact wouldn’t reply me.

“Why on earth would some high up, all-important person be willing to talk to a random, inexperienced uni student?” I thought to myself.

From what I recall, my first draft ended up resembling a watered down academic journal article with no reference list. But after a few weeks, I have learnt so much.

Just Whack It

This is a phrase that a Singaporean friend of mine says whenever she has no idea what she’s doing – but does it anyway.

As a perfectionist, I wanted to do everything right at the first go. I couldn’t just whack it. I needed to be sure of what I was doing, and spend way too much time planning.

During the course of my internship, I learnt that sometimes, it is best to just have a go at it anyway: to accept new challenges, and to work with whatever you’ve got and swallow your fears in the meantime.

I have had the opportunity to interview an Irish comedian, the PR manager for a fashion brand I love and students from universities all around Victoria. Having spoken to so many people I don’t normally interact with on a daily basis, I don’t feel embarrassed approaching them anymore.

People aren’t all that bad

I had expected people to turn me down because I was just some intern, but I was surprised that most of the companies I had to interview were very helpful. They apologised when they were unable to get back to me by my deadline.

I come from Indonesia, where work culture is usually very hierarchical, and you usually tend to not ask for help from your higher ups unless absolutely needed, or to actively participate. My internship in Melbourne has taught me a lot about Australia’s relaxed working culture, and how there are people who are willing to help.

Finding Yourself

The past few months have taught me how to persevere and develop a thicker skin when communicating with other people. I’ve learnt how much I could actually do when I stop hiding under my comfort zone, and test your limits.

All in all, the internship has been a valuable experience. For anyone contemplating whether an internship is worth your time – I would say that it is. An internship has been more than just work experience.