Meet Our New Lost Girls Intern!

Lost Girls, Quitting & Career Management, South Africa, Studying Abroad, Working Abroad — By on September 7, 2009 at 5:00 am

Earlier this month, Lost Girls intern Patty Hodapp completed her study abroad program in Italy, and has since been gone on to become the Travel Lifestyle Editor for our site. Welcome Patty!

Courtney BrooksNow that fall and a new semester have arrived, we’re thrilled to introduce our newest (and certainly most well traveled!) intern-Courtney Brooks. This 22-year-old journalism student is entering her 5th year at Northeastern University (at her school, they do five years rather than four, and three 6-month “co-ops” dispersed throughout). For her 3rd co-op, she is working at a news service in Johannesburg, South Africa (more on that below).

This Vermont native says that it was after scoring her first co-op at The Boston Globe that she realized what she wanted to become: an international journalist.

“I think this was a combination of my love of traveling coupled with the fact that while I was there the Globe shut its international bureaus,” she says. “I feel it’s incredibly important for papers to have someone local on the ground rather than writing from afar, and also really important not to have all international news coming to the US from one or two news wires, which is more and more what the situation is becoming.”

So, she became determined to make her own way as an international journalist, “even though it’s not exactly a growing field.” Since then she’s worked as a journalism intern in Cape Town, Havana, Dublin and Johannesburg.

For her first post, we asked Courtney to share the last five places that she visited, and to tell us a bit about her experience in each destination. Please join us in welcoming Courtney to the team-and be sure to leave her some comment love!

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Courtney: I am lucky enough that Northeastern University, not only allows me to spend time abroad but actively encourages it.

For the first two and a half years I stayed in Boston and had a very normal college experience. I attended classes for the first year, and in January of my sophomore year did my first “co-op,” or six-month internship, at The Boston Globe, one of the most popular places for journalism students from Northeastern to apply. Northeastern’s program integrates three co-ops into five years of school. The summer after working at The Globe I became bored. I loved my life in Boston but I was tired of seeing the same people and going out to the same places. I was ready for an adventure and ready for an internship where I would be given more responsibility, even if it meant less pay. Actually, no pay. So for my second co-op I decided to go to Cape Town, South Africa, to work at The Cape Times. Since then I haven’t spent more than four months in one place.

Here are my last five destinations.

1. Johannesburg, South Africa I am currently living here and working at a news service. Although I have only been here for about a week, I can already tell that is going to be my biggest travel challenge yet. The rampant crime, which keeps me from being able to walk by myself virtually anywhere in the city, even during the day, is just one issue. Working at a news service is also a completely new experience for me, and means that rather than working on one or two deadlines everyday, the journalists here are constantly on deadline. On my third day of work I had to write a 600-word article on a strike by construction workers at World Cup stadiums in less than an hour. I somehow managed to pull it off despite my internal panic attack. Johannesburg also feels more authentically African, and less European, than Capetown did, and is the real news center of the country.

2. Dublin, Ireland This trip was more a treat to myself than my others have been, and was a great break in between the more intense situations of Cuba and South Africa. I interned at The Irish Times and lived with two Canadian friends for May and June of this year. I spent copious amounts of time sitting in pubs drinking Guiness and eating fish and chips and took advantage of the country’s comparatively central location to visit Scotland, Holland and Northern Ireland. The Irish also happen to be, in my opinion, some of the most wonderful people on earth. Everyone is incredibly friendly and always ready to have a chat, even at a newspaper on deadline.

3. Havana, Cuba I took classes in Cuba at Casa de las Americas between January and the end of March of this year as part of a study abroad. (If you are wondering how I was able to live in Cuba as an American, it is actually possible to score student visas if you are willing to deal with the stress of the government not telling you that you have one until a week before you are supposed to leave).

Twelve of us from my school lived on the top floor of an apartment building overlooking the Malecon, a sea wall which stretches the length of the city. I also wrote for The Havana Times (an online newspaper which is not registered with the government) about my experiences there.
Cuba was amazing and devastating in so many ways. Everyone I knew there was at least as educated as I am, but most had salaries of between 10 and 20 dollars a month. Havana is beautiful, but is literally crumbling after 50 years of disrepair. After leaving I felt forever changed, not only more appreciative of what I have in life but also of how little it means in comparison to my family and friends.
4. Cape Town, South Africa I truly believe that Cape Town is one of the most magical places on earth. It is a unique mix of African, European, Asian and Middle Eastern heritage. In the same street you can hear the Muslim call to prayer, see African dancing and eat fish and chips. I worked there at The Cape Times, one of the largest English-speaking newspapers in Cape Town. The whole experience was amazing, but the last six weeks was truly life-changing. There were xenophobic attacks in Johannesburg by impoverished South Africans on Africans from other countries living in the townships. The attacks quickly spread down to Cape Town, although they were not as extreme there. I spent the last six weeks of my time working in camps which the city had put up for refugees fleeing the townships. The people I met in the camps truly broke every stereotype of refugees – one man I met had worked at the US Embassy in Rwanda and had fled with his family during the genocide. Another I met had written several books, including one about Nelson Mandela.

5. Toledo, Spain The summer after my freshman year of college I went to study abroad in Spain for a month. This trip was largely unremarkable – good friends, good drinks and good times – except that Spain is where the travel bug truly bit me.

It was the first time that I had been abroad for more than two weeks and I found that I loved spending enough time in a city to feel at home there. On this trip I realized that I was probably not a great backpacker, as every time I had gone somewhere for only a few days I had been devastated at having to leave without understanding the city as a local rather than a tourist.
But, as it also made me learn…I could be a great traveler.
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