Summer Journalism Internship In France: Acting Like A Professional

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When you apply for an internship, you hope you will gain practical work experience in order to eventually obtain a job in your field.

It is too early to say if my three months spent at a radio station in France will help me secure a job in Canada (or anywhere else), but thus far I can say it has helped me gain a lot of interviewing and editing experience.

Since I have started working in Rouen I have interviewed artists, doctors, students, architects, photographers, and engineers. In addition I have interviewed the president of the university, the mayor of Rouen, and France’s Foreign Minister.

When you are standing in a room filled with big names and half a dozen reporters from other news organizations, you almost stop feeling like an intern. You begin to feel like a professional.

Granted I have made some mistakes along the way, but the good thing about mistakes is you learn from them.

For example, there have been one or two occasions when I almost missed an assignment because I didn’t have my phone with me or it was set on vibrate. Lesson learned: never, ever, leave the house without your cell phone. Also, leave it on ring mode day and night. Reporters need to be available for an assignment any day of the week, no matter the time.

Case in point: one time my supervisor asked to cover an event on a Saturday morning. Part of me was taken aback at having to work on the weekend, but I told myself it is simply part of the job. In fact, once he was done explaining whom I had to interview, I asked my supervisor if he needed me on Sunday as well, just to let him know I was game for anything.

Something else I have learned: the importance of being prepared. Whenever my supervisor gives me an assignment, I immediately begin doing research. I find information about the event, jot down notes about the important people I have to interview, find their photos online if I don’t know what they look like, and prepare some general questions in advance.

As a rule of thumb, an interview for radio should last a minimum of two minutes, but I always try to go beyond the required minimum. This is a bit of a challenge for me if I run out of prepared questions after two minutes.

Being prepared is my strength, but not improvisation. At least I will know what to say during future job interviews when they ask the dreaded question: what is your greatest weakness?

Before leaving for the assignment I make sure I have all of the necessary material: digital recorder, extra batteries, notepad, cell phone, and a folder for any press kit they might hand out. In case I have to go someplace I am not familiar with, I also have a map of the city. It was one of the first things I bought when I arrived in town.

Finally, the people I plan to interview influences what I should wear for the assignment. If I am interviewing the president of a student association, I can dress casually with just jeans and sneakers. On the other hand, if I plan to interview the mayor at a press conference, a good shirt and a pair of black shoes would make a good impression.

In fact, when I met the president of the agglomeration community after his election, I made a good enough impression that he recognised me at later events. Now when we see each other at a press conference he is always willing to give me a few minutes for an interview.

When you work as an intern, you should not expect to gain a lot of money. That has been true for me, but money was not the objective. The goal was to have the opportunity to gain professional work experience to enhance my resumé and later apply for a more long-term job. So far: mission accomplished.

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About the author

Simon Arseneau has been travelling around the world since he was two years old. Although he was born in a small Canadian town, he spent his teenage years in Chile and Peru. There he learned how to speak Spanish and how to adapt to a new culture. In 2006, he studied English and Intercultural Studies (translation, editing, and literature) at the University of Sherbrooke. In 2010, he enrolled at the Sheridan Institute (Oakville, Ontario) in Journalism- New Media where he learned how to operate cameras, perform interviews, edit material with Final Cut Pro, take digital photographs, use new media technology, and write for the web and print. In July 2011, he participated in the ieiMedia program in Perpignan, France, where he shot videos, performed interviews, and wrote a feature story about blacksmiths working in the region. Simon speaks French, English, and Spanish, and has experience with Italian and German.