Day 2 at Forum has come and gone and, with it, my first week. Unfortunately, I only get to intern at Forum two days a week. (I’m still going to try to convince them I’m useful enough and interested enough to work more than two days a week, but I’m also absolutely taking the two days I currently have and getting as much as I possibly can out of them for now.)
I met another intern – Leslie – who happens to live about 5 miles away from me, so we’re already planning on carpooling every Tuesday from here on out. Once I arrived at 8, we printed out the focus and host sheets, got everything ready for the morning’s show, and had it all set up by 8:20. Yes, we referenced the guidelines for interns and asked each other questions, but with the exception of one question to our friendly outgoing intern, we managed to get it all done ourselves.
I was responsible for the 9 am hour, which was about the new EPA regulations on carbon dioxide emissions in existing power plants. That was exciting, because I worked a lot on preparing for it yesterday with Tina, so I enjoyed being responsible for the in-studio guest, for bringing the comments into the studio, and for bringing Dan the coffee he left on his desk. Interns will be interns, I suppose…
Obviously, this is not actually representative of what I do. In reality, Leslie and I spent pretty much the entire hour from 9 to 10 reading emails/web posts/facebook posts/tweets about as fast as we could, printing them out, and organizing them to bring them into the studio to Dan and then to Michael, just like yesterday.
I then spent almost two hours (from 10 to after 12, with a break in the middle) typing the titles and authors of the recommended books from today’s 10 am program into a very large spreadsheet, and then finding URLs for each one. But all the work seems like it was worth it; my hard work is now available on our Summer Reading List page...
We interns then got to sit in on the post-show meeting, which lasted about 15 minutes. The producers spoke with Michael about what went well, which hour was better (and thus will be repeated from 10-11 pm), and what would make a good hour better in the future. I was able to give a suggestion or two of my own, which the producers seemed to like, so I hope that’s good!
After taking a lunch, I worked on some research for Thursday’s show, helped organize the research someone else already did for tomorrow’s 10 am hour with SF poet laureate Alejandro Murguia. Then – because a day isn’t complete for me unless it is FILLED with books – I went through the advance copies of books Dan has received from publishers to see if there were any possibilities for Forum shows. I found a few, wrote up some ideas, and hopefully will get to start real research on them next week sometime. I’m also hoping I’ll be able to convince them to let me bring a book home on Monday to return on Tuesday; if I read them, I might be able to write some upcoming book reviews for books that have only just been published!
Technically, I’m interning at Forum this summer as a “class,” since I’m required to get credit for it. It doesn’t matter much, except that I have certain assignments I need to do. Next week, I’ll be asking some questions of the producers regarding goals and objectives from both my and their points of view, to make sure we’re all on the same page. Future assignments include interviewing important people at the organization – stay tuned, since I’ll be aiming to at least interview Michael Krasny, and maybe some other big NPR/KQED names. And maybe some smaller ones, too.
For now, though, I’m just happy that I had an almost-real conversation with him today (about the intended audience of two kids books mentioned on the show today) and I shook his hand and actually introduced myself. We’re going places, kids!
Aaaaannndd… more books. This represents about 1/3 to 1/2 of the books around Michael Krasny’s desk, and maybe 1/10 (1/15? Estimating is hard when books are horizontal, vertical, on shelves, in boxes, in piles, on the floor, literally everywhere…) of the books that can be found in the Forum workspace. No word yet on how many of them are actually read, but I did get told that Michael reads every book he talks about with the author on air. (So a lot.)
Last week, I had an interview that was supposed to last 15-20 minutes. Instead, it lasted almost 45. I was interviewed by Irene Noguchi, one of the producers on KQED’s Forum.
Perhaps it was a result of her time conducting interviews both on and off air, but she asked me some of the best questions I’ve ever been asked. Not only that, but she saw things in me through my resume that I hadn’t even put together about myself.
Preceding the interview, she asked me to put together three pitches for three story ideas for Forum, which was both more fun and more challenging than I expected it to be. But she said they were very thorough and impressively detailed, so that’s good. One of my pitches was about the robots and science in the search for lost planes, specifically the Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 still missing somewhere in the Indian Ocean, one was about the company Pley, renting toys, and the importance of playing with new toys for children’s’ development, and the third was about the sad lack of international authors translated into English.
As we were talking, Ms. Noguchi asked me why I had traveled to Prague, and what I was getting out of my experience. It was a question I was expecting; in fact, in my internship course just last week, we had mock interviews, and every single person got asked this question. When I answered it in class, I talked about my personal connection to Prague, the fact that my dad spent hours, days, weeks, with Babi translating documents from Czech after Deda died, and my worry that no-one in my family will be able to do that when the inevitable happens and Babi passes on too. In class, my teacher and classmates suggest I not talk about it. Use the question to express your interest in seeing the world, in learning about a new culture; answer every question honestly, but spin every answer to market some aspect of yourself. When Ms. Noguchi asked me that same question, I ignored all the advice, and answered it the same way I’d answered it in class. Instead of being put off by such a personal answer, she nonchalantly said, “So you’re the family historian.”
I’d never thought of it that way. I don’t think I have that much interest in family history, really. We have a family tree of Babi’s side framed in her house, and I know I’ve always been fascinated by it. I love hearing the stories of the past and of all our relatives, but I can never remember them. Isn’t remembering an innate part of being a historian? So I didn’t really think of myself as a family historian, but since that interview, I think it might be an accurate description. I mean, look at this blog. As much of what I’ve written about Prague has been about my search for my family’s history as it has been about anything else. Maybe it is a role I’m stepping into, one step, one story, at a time?
Regardless, the next thing Ms. Noguchi said hit me as telling: “That’s good. Everyone in radio, I think, is attracted to the story, whatever it is.” And we moved on.
A bit later, she said something else that I maybe could have predicted, but also hadn’t really put together. She asked another question, phrased as if it was something obvious. “I see a robots theme here on your resume. Research at Tufts, the Girl Scouts Robotics team.” She interrupted herself. “I didn’t even know the Girl Scouts had a robotics team. And then one of your pitches was about robots. Tell me about this theme.”
My answer to this question isn’t really all that relevant, but I did find it interesting. I don’t think I’m as into robots as I used to be; I’m not on robotics teams anymore, at least. But I still find them fascinating. I read pretty much every article about robots I come across, and I write about them too! Maybe I’m more into robots than I thought, and it just took a single, well-thought out question to show me that.
I hope that, among all the things I get to do this summer, I can learn to ask the type of questions Ms. Noguchi asked me. I hope that I can learn from her, from the other Forum producer Judy Campbell, editor Dan Zoll, and of course host Michael Krasny, to ask the right questions to get the interesting answers.
Because about two days after our interview, I got the email everyone wants when they’re applying for a job. Starting in less than 4 weeks, I’ll be working on KQED’s Forum as an intern, helping to pick and research show topics and guests, to screen callers, and to put the ten hours of fascinating content I’ve listened to for as long as I remember on air.
I’m super excited for this opportunity, and I want to take a second to thank Emily Sena and her friend Erika Kelly for helping me even get an interview. I know from experience that getting the interview is the hard part, so I’m eternally grateful to these two. (Get networking, kids! It is totally worth it!)
I know that the very first thing I’m going to do when I meet Michael Krasny is ask him two questions: How many books do you read a week? How? Because it is clear from his interviews with authors that he reads every book he talks about on air, and obviously dozens on top of that. So I want to learn his secret…
I think it is safe to say that the reality of the awesomeness of this hasn’t really hit me yet. I’m going to working on a nationally aired news program on NPR. Based on things I’ve read (including this blog by a Stanford student who interned on Forum, and this interview of Forum editor Dan Zoll) I know that this is going to be an amazing internship, where I will get real responsibilities from Day 1, get to meet amazing people from all walks of life, and hopefully find a career I love (either radio, or something else that one of the hundreds of guests I’ll interact with does…). Regardless, I’m very excited for what this summer holds in store for me, and I’ll make sure to keep everyone updated as the summer progresses!
And if you’ve got any questions you want me to pose to anyone on the Forum staff, or others who work for KQED, sound off below and I’ll see what I can do!
Anyone who’s been around this blog for a while knows that this is my second semester in the most beautiful city in Europe. But I’m not just chilling in Prague, traveling and wandering and taking pictures. (Although that is a lot of what I do here…) I am also taking classes. I’m here, at school, on Monday morning, waiting for my second week of classes to start, and it seems appropriate to let you all in on my schedule. (That, and my Dad emailed, asking that question.)
So here we go:
The first thing to note about my schedule this semester is that I manipulated it and took very specific classes which has resulted in the most amazing study abroad schedule imaginable. The earliest I start is 10:35 (M/W), and I only have classes M/T/W. Aka, I get four day weekends, so when I travel I can do it right (or at least better).
But how? Well, first of all, I’m taking a class called the Films and Literature of Arnost Lustig. A couple of friends took it last semester and loved it, and I’m psyched. The professor is Pepi Lustig, the son of the famous Czech author and director, which means we get an intensely personal view of the material. Lustig and his entire family managed to survive the Holocaust through dumb luck and a willingness to accept said luck, so these stories are really fascinating. I’m really excited about the class. In addition to the overall awesomeness, the class meets for three weekends – I can’t travel those weekends (obviously), but it means my weeks have a lighter load.
I’ve also lightened my schedule stress by taking two classes that meet only once a week. The first, called Nation, Power, and Money, is about the influence of media and propaganda on the Czech Republic and the world. It also got positive reviews from people last semester, and I’m excited to get a bit of this sort of thing from a different perspective. Back at Tufts, I took a propaganda class looking at the rise of Nazism and Japanese militarism, so I’m excited that this class takes the same ideas to look at the popularity of communism throughout East Europe and the Soviet Bloc, as well as how and why consumerism is similar to communism and advertisements similar to propaganda.
My other one-block-per-week class is called Global Crisis, and is about the 2008 financial collapse. This class is taught through ECES, which is Charles University’s center for American students (as opposed to all the programs in Prague that are affiliated with CU, like CIEE). We have our first class meeting tomorrow, but I’m excited. There will be a mix of students from CIEE, students from ECES, and also ERASMUS students from all over Europe, so I look forward to getting to meet some people outside of the program. I’ve never taken an economics class in college, but I think I’ll be okay, and hopefully I’ll learn a lot too.
The last class I’m taking through CIEE is my Czech Language class. There are seven people in my class – four of us from Fast Track last semester, two from other Czech classes last semester, and one whose Mom is Czech, so she has a much larger vocabulary than the rest of us, but never learned the grammar rules. All in all, this class may end up being my favorite (again!) because the people are great, and the professor is great. We had Jana last semester, so she already knows most of us and knows how we study, what we really want to learn, etc. We got new textbooks this semester (that cost $30, not $130 like Amazon says…), and she says we’ll be getting through all 200 pages, in addition to the activity book, so I have a suspicion this is going to be a challenging semester. On the other hand, every day I feel more and more like I’m getting a real handle on the language – I even understood the gist of the news last night. But that is a post for another day.
If you’ve been keeping track, this is only four classes, and CIEE has a strict five-class policy. So what am I missing? My internship, of course! I’ve got an internship at Amnesty International for the semester, which I think (unfortunately) will end up being my least interesting class, because I speak English. Basically, the advantage of having native English speakers for Amnesty and all the other companies CIEE sets up internships with is that we can edit their English documents and publications. It certainly isn’t the most exciting work, but I’m not complaining. I like the people I work with, and I’ve already noticed my opinions and my interpretations of international events changing. Hopefully it gets more interesting, but even if it doesn’t, I’m enjoying it for the most part.
But wait, there’s more! I am taking a sixth class, and I’m in the process of getting it approved for credit. Called Mystery of Words in USAC (another program in Prague), and previously offered at CIEE as Words through History, History through Words, it was the one class that I was most excited about taking before I came here. It is a little bit linguistics, a little bit history, a little bit anthropology, and is basically about how languages evolve over time, and how different languages influence and alter each other.
As always, I’ll be updating as the semester goes on with information about me, my life, and my classes, so check back shortly for information about last weekend’s trip to Berlin, and also last month’s trip to Geneva and the French-Swiss Alps.