My Crazy Life As An Intern
By Richard Mejia
No one told me how much of a toll having an internship would take on me. Of course, I was given general expectations in my internship class, but I was not ready for the overall impact it would have on my life.
Let’s start at the beginning.
As it goes in the Journalism & Public Relations (JPR) department at Cal State Long Beach, JPR students are required to attain an internship in order to fulfill the graduation requirement. Knowing this well in advance, I spent the entirety of my 2018 summer creating, and subsequently scrapping, resumes, cover letters and portfolio sites on a loop.
The effort was for naught, as a sobering storm of rejection emails made me wonder, “What the hell have I been doing in college?” It was baffling to me and downright dejecting. But I didn’t let that thwart me; I persisted throughout the winter, and after months of submitting applications, I finally landed an interview at the Mesa Water District.
As a journalism major, I quickly found out that journalism-specific internships are somewhere between “incredibly rare” and “virtually nonexistent.” The position at Mesa Water was as a Public Affairs Intern. Given how badly I wanted land an internship, I jumped at the opportunity. After a lengthy interview and screening process, I began my internship on Feb. 12 with a six-month commitment.
I was terribly nervous prior to starting. Although I’d been in JPR for almost five years, the most public relations work I had done was an Intro to Public Relations class I took during my first semester. I’ve been a managing editor at every collegiate publication I’ve been a part of, an editor for an online sports blog, and I have covered any beat imaginable as a writer. I had supreme confidence in my abilities as both a writer and reporter as someone who could create anything from videos to podcasts and leverage social media to promote my work. That confidence was chopped down to size in this new world of public relations.
The work I did at Mesa Water was an education like no other. I wasn’t just an intern grabbing coffee and making copies; I was creating press releases and media advisories, writing newsletters, and coordinating outreach events and programs. On top of that, I curated social media content for all of Mesa Water’s channels. I am beyond grateful for all the experience, but man, my work and life balance suffered immensely.
I was working 30 hours per week at Mesa Water, working full-time as a supervisor at Starbucks and completing my final semester as a full-time student at CSULB. It was the norm for me to work 16-hour days, with my “free time” dedicated to assignments and general errands. It was manageable at first. Being young and energetic, I knew that right now, more than at any other point in my life, I’d be able to give my attention to all of these endeavors, even if that meant making the putrid trek from Long Beach to Costa Mesa in either slow-paced morning traffic or standstill evening traffic.
But the constant rat race meant I missed birthday parties (I have seven nieces and nephews between two siblings), nights out with my friends, and quality time with my long-term girlfriend. Eventually, the strain on my body and mind was too taxing. As students, we’re taught many things in class, but balancing all these items isn’t one of them. And how can someone teach you that?
No one can—it’s just life.
I was fortunate enough to have my internship extended and obtain a flexible work schedule, but the greatest lesson I learned from having an internship was how to balance items in my life and to prioritize the things that are most important. I won’t miss an assignment for class or skip out on updating Mesa Water’s social media content calendar, but I will take a sick day occasionally for self care and to catch up with my loved ones. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.