Expectation vs. Reality on a media internship in Sydney

Almost a week out from my internship in Sydney, at Australia’s leading multi-platform magazine publisher, Bauer Media, I’m feeling reflective. I spent my days living the stock-standard nine-to-five office lifestyle, with lunch in Hyde Park and a weekend trip to the Blue Mountains. It’s the city I’ve aspired to live in – along with many others – since the day I decided I wanted to be a writer. The internship brought both expectations that come true and realities I needed to learn. Here’s a few that might come in handy for other journalists-in-the-making.

Expectation: a park-view office on the tenth floor in the middle of the CBD.

Reality: it’s still just an office with desks and computers and that weird carpet smell you’re not sure if you like or loath.

A room is just a room, right? A city is just a city. I adored the idea of working in Sydney: it’s my speed, there’s always something to do, and their winter is much sunnier than Adelaide’s. But when I visited Pymble, a suburb north of Chatswood, for a day with a digital marketing agency, I was just as happy in their office. It was small, cramped and lacking natural light, but I was surprised at myself that I didn’t really mind. I loved the work I did that day, more than most of what I did during my main Sydney internship. The people were just as nice and welcoming as they were in the big-shot fancy building, and I didn’t really care where I was because I enjoyed the work.

Expectation: I won’t have as much time to do whatever I want.

Reality: I didn’t realise how much I would actually miss this.

Sometimes I think a lot of university students tend to forget about is how much free time we have. This is different for all degrees, but in comparison to working full-time it’s still a pretty good deal. We go to our tutorials (sometimes), do our assignments (also, sometimes), work at our casual job, and we hang out with our mates. In between those things we binge-watch Netflix, go to the gym, or do whatever we want to fill the time – and a lot of that goes away with a career. Everyone knows that going in, but adjusting to it feels strange. We will never have this much freedom, spontaneity and lack of responsibility again – don’t spend the last months of your degree wishing that away. Embrace it.

Expectation: thank God uni’s over, I’m so over lectures and assignments.

Reality: I think… I actually… miss learning…

I didn’t take a gap year; studying is all I’ve known since I was five. I’m positive as hell that I’m ready to move on and explore new things, one of which is working a fulltime job in the industry I’ve been prepping for for the last four years. In saying that, staring at a screen for eight hours a day doing a job you know how to do – chances are you’re not learning at the extent you were during university. It depends on the role, and I’m lucky that journalism offers an opportunity to keep learning by reporting on new stories… but it’s not the same as studying a degree. To learn is to grow, and as soon as we stop growing we’re no longer becoming better versions of ourselves. That’s such an important aspect of life and we can’t lose that to a career, so keep learning – keep growing.

Expectation: journalism is a cut-throat industry and an intimidating career.

Reality; as much as it scares me, it’s what I want to do.

Looking at my life after university I see myself going into a full-time role in social media, digital marketing or public relations while pursuing freelance journalism on the side. With this experience, even though I enjoyed the work and I learnt new skills that make me more employable, I missed being a journalist, a writer. Sub-editing, content creation, fact-checking – they just don’t do it for me. What this internship reiterated was, a) I’ve studied the right degree (thank God); b) journalism may be scary, but it’s worth the plunge if I want to be passionate about my career; and c) telling people’s stories is what I’m supposed to do.

These realities were a blessing and I’ve barely began experience them in two weeks. Bring on Sydney, London… New York (did someone say Carrie Bradshaw?). For sure I’ll be shitting myself with the crazy moves and daunting bosses and insane hours, but all of it will make me a better journalist, a better writer, a better person (here’s to hoping). For now, though, I’ll cherish these last six months of my degree, because the past four years have been everything. Absolutely everything.

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