I chose this internship because it blended my two fields of study perfectly: French and photojournalism. I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity for both.

Program of Study: Interdisciplinary Major: Photojournalism and French
Internship: Photography Department of the Information and Communications Delegation of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of France
Location: Paris, France

Briefly describe your internship and your responsibilities as an intern.
I completed two three-month internships at the photography department. There I worked closely with professional photographers and worked independently on communications projects for the Ministry of the Interior, which varied greatly and ranged from press conferences with the Minister, official portraits of politicians, documenting demonstrations and protests, and special missions by internal security forces of the French police.

How did you find your internship?
I found my internship through the Goucher affiliated study abroad program IFE (Internships in Francophone Europe).

What resources did you find particularly helpful in your internship search?
The team at IFE was extremely helpful in securing this internship opportunity. They made contact with my internship site and scheduled interviews. They also found me another short-term internship at the photography desk of Le Monde, a daily French newspaper. The team at IFE was also helpful in the logistics of extending my internship with the Ministry over the summer of 2009.

Why did you choose your internship? What factored into your search and applying?
I chose this internship because it blended my two fields of study perfectly: French and photojournalism. I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity for both.

What were you most apprehensive about going into your internship?
I was most apprehensive about the language barrier when I started my internship, especially some of the technical terminology around photography that I never learned in French class.

What did you hope to gain from your internship experience?
I hoped to gain more confidence both in my language skills and in my work as a photographer. And I certainly did. I was able to practice both constantly in a new environment and explore my interests and try new things.

How did your internship experience influence your academic and career interests/goals/plans?
The internships I completed in Paris were really the time when I decided that I knew what I wanted to do in terms of my studies and career plans. I had thought for a long time that I was interested in both French and photography, but really living both firsthand showed me what I want and what I don’t want from my future career, hopefully, as a photojournalist.

What were the most challenging aspects of your internship?
The most challenging aspects of my internship were mostly the logistical aspects of it: the language, getting around in a foreign city on my own, learning to recognize faces of important French politicians, catching up on current issues and the news in France, etc. All of these factors got easier with practice.

What were most rewarding aspects of your internship?
The most rewarding aspect of my internship was coming back from a long photographic assignment and having professional photographers at my internship site who I respected compliment me on my work and offer advice for future projects. That was just invaluable.

Any funny/embarrassing things happen during your internship?
My coworkers at the Ministry of the Interior often introduced me to their colleagues as "their American intern," and then as "Barack Obama’s son." Everyone got a kick out of that.

How do you feel your internship prepared you for the real world?
These internships prepared me for the ‘real world’ enormously-- learning the mechanics of both governmental and journalistic communications, people skills, improving my language skills, learning to navigate myself in a new and unfamiliar place. These are all essential skills to have.

What advice would you give to students to help them make the most of their internship experience?
Keep an open mind about the kind of work you expect (or are expected) to do. No matter what work you might do and no matter how rewarding it may or may not be, any experience working in your potential field of study will be helpful. Maybe you’ll leave knowing that that is what you want to do as a career and maybe you’ll leave knowing it’s definitely not what you want as a job. Either outcome is helpful and enriching.

How do you utilize the skills you developed in your internship experience in your job now?
I have brought back many of my skills to school this year: my improved French skills have landed me in some challenging French literature courses; my photography work has prompted me to do a thesis, a large photo essay exhibition.

Will Napier