Spending the fall of my senior year at Bon Appetit Magazine under Conde Nast was the best decision I could have ever made for my education and I have learned more in the past three months than I have in all of my 14 years of schooling. Learning how to read is important, but my kindergarten self cannot imagine the things I have learned this past semester about who I am and what I want to be. With New York City as my campus and a major publishing conglomerate as my classroom, I know that I have completed the single most important educational experience of my college career.
I came onto the staff in September 2013 as an editorial intern but I left with more resume points than just coffee runs for editors. I was invited to daily web meetings where ideas were bounced off a board of editors and I was officially invited to participate in the media wild west that we call the web. With a basic knowledge of SEO and Google Trends, I soon figured out the difference between scouting for clicks and page views and the journalistic efforts of food writing. My daily sources of world news were quickly replaced with sites such as Grub Street, HuffPost Food, and Eater, keeping me up to date on everything food. I brought ideas, inspired by existing internet trends or my food adventures in NYC, to the editor’s table during those meetings and it was only my nerves that stopped me from pitching stories. I was warmly invited into the full experience of Bon Appetit and asked to research ideas for web content and try my hand at writing stories. I now have a portfolio of pieces currently published on the website, from a roundup of Chef Halloween Costumes to 7 Ways to Screw Up an Apple Crisp (which I made perfectly that weekend with Long Island apples) and numerous Recipe of the Day writeups. My actual name is on BonAppetit.com. I have a articles that I can link to on a website that is followed by millions of users and I could not have imagined such an important kickstart to my future without this experience.
I may have thought for a fleeting time around my middle school years that I could pursue a career in writing, but most of those fantasies faded with the completion of the Harry Potter series. When I learned what a checkbook was, reality set in and making words for a living seemed like a simple way to starve. Now, I’m someone who likes to eat. I like to eat quite a bit. With these recent endeavors into the world of food writing, I now know this is something I could realistically do. I could apply for editorial positions within a food news blog organization, a cookbook publisher, or even as social media strategist for some food-related outpost. All of these jobs involve generating content, and that doesn’t necessarily mean the art content that I have been learning to generate my past few years at Florida State. I know that a lot of my formal education has centered around the principles of graphic design and photography but I feel as if those skills are only supplementary to the power I have as a food writer. I am confident that my endgame would be to oversee the creative production of a cookbook or food publication. I could use my artistic skills but also use my knowledge as a writer and strategist to encourage ‘what works’ to complement ‘what looks good’. I know that these ideas I have gathered from my observation and participation at Bon Appetit could not have come at a more appropriate time in my life.
With the recent news that Conde Nast would be indefinitely suspending its internship program, I felt as if I needed to express my thoughts on my experience and the controversy surrounding it. The program has faced much scrutiny over intern roles and subsequent compensation and as someone who now possesses an invaluable experience, I can say that I have zero regrets in taking on such a demanding and knowingly unpaid internship. I applied for this program a month before I got on the plane and I was fully aware of the financial and emotional toll it could take. My paycheck came in the form of connections I made with people with whom I worked 35 hours a week, who slowly discovered that I was not just a writer, but an artist as well. Maybe it was that they wanted to talk about how ‘awesome’ Florida is, but I can only hope they recognized my move to NYC as an impressive commitment to the position. I do understand the refutations from former interns that the work we do at Conde Nast deserves to receive payment but I think those claims are coming from those who didn’t exit the program with a good experience. I think one has to come into the understanding that you get what you put into it. I could have spend my entire semester filling recipes or making copies, but a positive attitude and an enthusiasm for assignments is what you need to expect in any learning experience, not a bi-weekly direct deposit.
I am so fortunate to be here and I am so thankful that I was chosen from of one of the most competitive applicant pools in the country. I never thought that this would happen for me, but with its completion, I can now confidently endeavor into my own career as a professional foodie with more knowledge and connections that I entered into it with. I know that I am very fortunate to have been a part of Conde Nast’s internship program, to which I owe a major portion of my experience as a young professional and a student.