Seriously thinking about a career in journalism? Journalism school will teach you the skills you'll need, but to truly hone those skills you'll need a journalism internship. It's the only way to practice what you've learned and gain the experience that employers are looking for.
Read on for tips for international students interested in snagging a great journalism internship in the USA:
Where to Find One
Your college or university should be the first resource in your internship hunt. Many journalism schools require students to complete at least one internship before graduation. Accordingly, they will have connections with local media just for this purpose. Ask professors or academic advisors if they know of any journalism summer internships or semester-long internships available for students.
If school resources aren't enough, or you simply have your heart set on working at a particular media outlet, take the initiative and research internship possibilities on your own.
International students interested in interning at a major newspaper, magazine, radio or television station (say The New York Times, major television networks, or national magazines like Vanity Fair, People, or Cosmopolitan), can look on their corresponding websites. Internships are usually posted amongst job listings. Be mindful to apply far in advance, up to 6 months depending. These are the most coveted and competitive journalism internships. Applying early is a benefit, but also necessary in certain media outlets that may not accept applications after a certain date.
For a broader search, try journalism industry websites like Mediabistro or generalized sights like Simply Hired. The listings will prominently be for internships located in major metropolitan cities (think New York, Washington D.C, or Chicago, etc.).
If you would rather start in a less hectic environment, try asking around at small town newspapers or broadcast stations near your college or university. They may need the extra help, but may not have posted an ad. It doesn't hurt to see if they may be interested.
Once you've found some potential internships, it's time to start applying. Remember to start your search and application process early. There will be plenty of other journalism students interested in the same journalism summer internships or semester-long internships as you.
For competitive internships, the application period may close six months before the internship actually starts. For smaller publications, you might be able to sneak in a few weeks before. Keep this in mind. You don't want to miss an opportunity simply because the deadline has passed.
Next, start looking through your available clips or writing samples. These can be from a local paper that you may have worked for, or clips from your school's newspaper. If you don't have anything published, find something you've written for class. Make sure it's thoroughly edited and mistake-free. You'll want to choose clips or writing samples that reflect the type of publication you are applying for: more serious, hard-hitting clips for a big-name, big-city newspaper versus more creative clips with a real sense of your writing style for a magazine known for it's provocative, opinionated articles.
On the Job
Be considerate, polite, and volunteer to help when and where you can. All internships are different, with some publications really putting their interns to work and others relying on their interns for administrative tasks. All journalists have to start somewhere, and a journalism internship is that starting point.
Ask questions and, whatever the task, do it well. This is your chance to make a good impression so that you can network, gain a reference, or even land a job after graduation.
Technicalities for International Students
A few things to be mindful of: most journalism summer internships or semester-long internships are unpaid. Think ahead and save money beforehand for living expenses and your schooling.
In addition, read the requirements thoroughly before applying. Unfortunately, for international students, some paid internships may have strict requirements regarding employment. This includes hiring only U.S. citizens, or those able to legally work in the United States. Make sure to read the fine print and determine if you are eligible.
Finding a journalism internship takes persistence, but there are plenty out there—whether paid or not. It's the best way to gain experience and get your foot in the door to better (and paid) journalism jobs in the future.