Confessions of a First-Time Intern

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By now many of you, like me, are in the midst of your summer internships. You researched your organization beforehand and you walked in that door on your first day feeling like you understood everything you needed to—you were wrong.

As a first-time intern working for a non-profit’s community relations department, I knew walking in my first day that I had a lot to learn. So far, I have learned a lot about the public relations industry and my role within the organization. Here are three “confessions” about my public relations internship experience thus far:

I ask a lot of questions.

Prior to my internship, I tried to get a better understanding of my organization but I found the process very difficult. My organization has a large reach within Pennsylvania and has several different programs within the 11 counties they serve. Understanding the organization as a whole has been confusing. The only way I’ve been able to gain understanding is by asking questions. Sure, some of my questions consist of “Who is Lisa?” or “Where do I save this?” but every question helps me understand the organizational process better as well as shows my coworkers and supervisor that I’m willing to learn. So ask questions; ask a million of them. Yes, I understand you’ve seen this piece of advice a thousand times; I know I have. It is the best piece of advice I can give. It’s impossible to learn without asking questions.

I get frustrated.

A couple weeks ago, I was tasked with designing raffle tickets for an upcoming event. Though the design process only took me about a day, figuring out how to make 999 of them in succession was a challenge. I was successful in making the tickets in about two or three days, only to find out that my computer could not support the large file. Flash-forward two days later when I was finally able to send the design to the printer. After completing the project, I was informed that my organization decided to buy the tickets instead of using my design. If you are asking yourself what the lesson in this story is, it is to be adaptable.  Not everything will go according to plan, no matter how hard you work on it. There will be projects and decisions within your internship that you disagree with but adapting to the situation and being confident in your knowledge and skills are what is important.

I still don’t know how to work the printer.

Printers are tricky. Sometimes you have to log into it, sometimes you don’t. There are too many trays of paper to choose from and I haven’t figured it out yet. What’s the lesson here? Be patient. Learning takes time. As public relations students, we don’t wake up one morning suddenly knowing how to write a press release or create a social media calendar. We learned how over time. After all, the whole point of an internship is to learn.


Gabrielle Coy is a junior public relations major. She serves as the special events coordinator for the Waynesburg University Public Relations Student Society of America Chapter, as well as an assistant firm director for Red Brick Communications, Waynesburg’s Student-run Firm. Someday she hopes to use her love of public relations in the nonprofit sector.

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