Tegan George – I Would Have Never Known …

In various stages of my life I have wanted to be a veterinarian, a marine biologist, an astronaut, an Olympic gymnast, and an attorney. One thing I have never wanted to be was a writer. While I did well enough on my essays in school, and often kept a private journal when I was younger, I was very uncomfortable with the idea of even talking about my writing– forget publishing it! Like Amanda Seyfried’s character Sophie in the movie “Letters to Juliet,” one of the biggest reasons why I never thought about writing in a non-academic setting was because I never thought anything was “finished” enough to do so. A perfectionist by nature, I never could let go.

Taking all this into account, the question “what do you do at your internship?” is one I sheepishly find a little funny, because… I write!

After a few weeks of organizing files and creating Excel spreadsheets, I had gotten into a comfortable pattern. While I wasn’t doing anything particularly challenging, I was learning a lot about Italian culture and history, and I was fine with a semester of this sort of thing. However, one day this changed. Claudia, my boss, was out of the office for a few hours and left a scrap of newspaper on my desk with the simple instructions “Write something about this.”

My first reaction was “What is that supposed to mean? That’s so vague!” A whirlwind of possibilities rushed through my head, and after staring at a blank Microsoft Word document for an hour, I panicked at the thought of her getting back and thinking I’d been sitting around doing nothing. In this way, I started hesitantly to write, and an hour later I had something I considered almost acceptable. I emailed it to Claudia, and dismissed the opportunity as a one-time thing, because “I’m really not a writer.”

The next day, much to my surprise (and possibly chagrin,) there was a magazine article with the same instructions: “Write something.” This time it wasn’t as difficult to get some words down, but I wondered if Claudia had even read the first one, because there was no way it was good enough to ask me to do it again!

Now, two months later, all I do is write. The difference from the first day is startling. I can now “write something” for Claudia in half an hour instead of two, and was even asked to write a full page article for the next issue of the Italian Academy Foundation’s magazine. I’ve also written the content for 4 of her other projects, and she gives me different prompts every day. I can’t even remember the last time I opened Microsoft Excel.

Eventually the question that continued to bewilder me was answered: why asked me to write in the first place. One day out of the blue, she asked me if I knew that I was a good writer. “Well, no.” I said. She laughed and said “That’s precisely why I want you to write. You don’t think you’re a writer at all, much less a good one, so you don’t overthink the process. I’m tired of good writers that know they’re good writers. You don’t see yourself as a writer, and your take on things isn’t tired, it’s candid. You should really consider pursuing it.” Needless to say, I was shocked.

I credit studying abroad with opening my horizons in a million different ways– through culture, food, day-to-day living, etc.– but one I would have never expected was an internship turning something I thought I was bad at into something I now love doing. Once I got over my insecurities about my writing, I found that it really wasn’t so hard after all, and then it became fun. Maybe I will pursue it, maybe I won’t, but if I hadn’t started working at the Italian Academy Foundation, I would have never known.

So, from “I’m really not a writer” I’ve come really far, and I have my internship to thank for this. While internships are a lot of work and take up a lot of time, it’s time 100% well-invested. My study abroad experience has been redefined by my internship, and I’ve discovered something about myself that I can carry into the future or maybe incorporate into my career– writing.