“A Virtually Equine Semester” is a guest blog post by Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College student, Stephanie Dolan, about her experience at a virtual internship.
A horse lover from birth, I was thrilled to see the posting last winter for a virtual internship with the Indiana Horse Council. I’m an Indianapolis resident, but I was not quite sure how I would have managed a full-time job with an in-house internship. The fact that this internship was virtual made this experience a dream job for me, and I am so grateful to my site supervisor, Mary Marshall (the Secretary of the IHC Board of Directors) for choosing me as her first-ever intern.
The mission of the Indiana Horse Council is as a non-profit corporation dedicated to the well-being of the horse industry. The Indiana Horse Council protects, promotes and preserves the interests and activities within the Indiana equine industry in the areas of education, legislation, promotion and philanthropy. I was honored to have been a part of this organization’s mission.
My main task was the completion of at least three articles for each quarterly newsletter. So far, I have assisted in the completion of the spring edition. I recently finished submitting the articles that will be published this summer. Being a virtual internship, I did not have as many deadlines with the exception of final due dates for newsletter proofing. I was always given plenty of time to do research and interviews and to do the write up on every article.
Journalism classes like Reporting and News Writing were integral in the successful completion of this internship. I may not be writing “hard news” for a newspaper. But it is still news, and it needed to be written in a professional news format. The classes I have had thus far really prepared me to successfully complete my assignments. My first three spring articles rested heavily on my skills as an interviewer.
In addition, my skills as an independent worker were strengthened as I worked on my own, and I got in some great practice in learning to trust my instincts. Further insight into what might make a good story and what would not for this particular publication was priceless. News speaks differently to different people. This is a particular subset for which I was writing, so all news is not created equal.
Having had this experience I think I can also clearly advise upcoming interns to be aware of what you are getting into. I have loved this internship, and I would choose again to take it. But if someone is not strong at working independently, and derives their security from more consistent contact with their supervisor, then an in-house internship may be better for them. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, find out what it is you are truly signing up for and then make an informed decision.
As a writer, I can imagine – I am hoping for anyway – a lot of freelance opportunities over the course of my career. This internship – and all of the lessons it brought – felt like one long freelance assignment, and the experience was invaluable in allowing me practice in all aspects of self-management that I will need to utilize for future jobs: time, work, creativity and production.
Ironically, the aforementioned freedom, which was the thing that I enjoyed the most, was also – at infrequent times – the greatest challenge. While I would not have traded this experience – just the way it was – for anything, there were moments when I had a question or when I was confused about something or when I just wanted to bounce an idea off of a colleague, and… I was it. These moments were great opportunities for me to, once again, learn to trust my instincts and make a choice on my own.
I really enjoyed that freedom of creativity, and – in general – I just enjoyed the freedom that a virtual internship afforded. As I said, the assignment schedule was very easy to follow, and I had plenty of time in which to complete all of my assignments. It was a relief – and frankly a very pleasant surprise – to be able to fit an internship in with my other classes and also a full work week.
Something that I can say with certainty is that I love writing about horses, horse people and horse-related issues. But I was also surprised to discover that, as much as I love horses, they are not something about which I solely want to write for the rest of my career. I also want to contract for entertainment writing and book reviews and travel writing, and – more than any of these things – I want my own column. But I can also say that I would enjoy immensely the opportunity to write for magazines like Horse & Rider, Equus or Horse Illustrated. These past few months have confirmed that I am more than capable of writing on the subject, and the newsletter articles I have written are now invaluable writing sample for equine periodicals.
For more information on virtual internships, check out Virtual internships: a case study.