The only thing I hated about being a journalism major in college, were the responses I got every time I told someone I was a journalism major, most of which included informing me that print is a dying industry and I wouldn’t have a job come graduation.
This was especially rough to hear when I was just a freshman working my hardest on the school paper.
So, frightened for my future, I began looking for a summer internship, as I knew internships were the best way to secure future employment.
That is how I came across The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) and the Institute on Political journalism (IPJ) program, which offered a package deal of college courses, D.C. experiences, and an internship.
About a month after applying, I got a call from Joe Starrs, who interviewed me for a place in the Institute on Political Journalism. The interview went well, as I had written some pretty big stories for the NYU school paper and I had a good GPA. This all boded well for me.
But I was a freshman and Joe was very honest with me that the program was rigorous, and generally made up of upperclassmen. I would be one of the few rising sophomores.
I said not a problem. I was an adult. I could totally handle this. Soon after I was offered a spot, and I took it.
I began my summer at TFAS (Go class of 09’!) in June and was amazed at how many opportunities I was given, including the journalism courses I took, and the visits I made to the Capitol, Australian embassy, and National Press Club.
But it was the responsibilities handed to me at my internship that reflected what Joe had said about being young.
I had been placed at The Washington Times as a metro desk intern, but for all intents and purposes, I was a reporter. I went out in the field, covering breaking news all over the district.
This was a good and bad thing, as several tragic events happened in Washington that summer, the greatest of which was a Metro line crash that killed nine people.
I covered the crash the day it happened, and continued to cover it for the rest of the summer.
At nineteen-years-old I was calling families of the victims asking them about their loved ones. Needless to say it was a lot to handle. But my editor reminded me that I was a journalist, that this was my job and that I could do it.
And what I was learning in my IPJ ethics course, and from the program in general, helped me to make the right choices when handling this sensitive issue. I had been given the tools to become a wiser and more experienced journalist than I would have ever been otherwise at nineteen.
It was evident that, despite my age, I had been able to succeed at the task when Joe Starrs handed me the John Chamberlain Award for Excellence in Print Journalism, at the IPJ graduation, for the work I had done at the Times that summer.
When I returned to school that fall, I put everything I had into biting off more than I could chew in the journalism world, and challenged myself to become a better writer. I sought out every chance to intern and get real hands on experience. This was something my peers would not get around to for a few semesters, as they had no real experience build off of.
This is what made me stop listening to the naysayers who had once made me question my abilities to find employment and succeed in my industry. I was already ahead, and I was not going to waste that advantage.
TFAS challenged me and pushed me and gave me a leg up in my journalism career I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It set in motion every other journalism experience I have had to date.
And I couldn’t thank the program more.
Jennifer Maas, 24, grew up in Northern Virginia and is an alumna of the Institute on Political Journalism. She attended New York University, and graduated with a double major in journalism and food studies in 2014. While in school she held several intern and freelance positions at major news outlets including Time Inc., The Washington Post, ABCNews.com, The New York Observer, Bustle.com, and The Washington Times. Jennifer recently moved to Los Angeles, California, where she is currently interning at Entertainment Weekly. Check out her blog, That’s So Grown-Up, for tips on everything from grad school and interviews to gift buying and budgeting!