This summer I am interning at Condé Nast Traveler. It's an unpaid internship, and someone donated money to my college to provide a stipend for people in my position. I met with the coordinator last Friday, and she told me that because the donator is still living I should write a thank-you note, which I have no problem doing. The following is what I expect to hand in:
As a recipient of a stipend from the fund you created for students working unpaid internships, I am writing, first and foremost, to thank you for the honor of being awarded a stipend from your fund and secondly to express my appreciation of such a fund’s creation.
Since the age when I could first hold a conversation, I have loved books; I fondly remember my mother reading from a large, hardcover book of illustrated fairy tales before I went sleep. As I grew, I began to read books myself without adult persuasion, longer ones without pictures. I brought books to elementary school, reading before the first bell rang and during recess. Without fail throughout high school, my head would be buried in a book during my almost hour-long commute. And since my environment expanded from the small Greenpoint, Brooklyn, of my childhood into anywhere the subway would take me, I did what any rational person would do when exploring unfamiliar territory—I bought a guide. Not just any guide, though, for this one’s title advertised a certain attitude that made it especially attractive: Not For Tourists (NFT).
The NFT Guide to Manhattan (later editions were re-named “Guide to New York City” as the book included more of the outer boroughs) helped me discover Manhattan and memorize its treasures as if I were a native. Opposite pages of maps with icons were listings of those icons, from ATMs to zoos. Armed with my NFT, I would explore parts of Manhattan by reading the Village Voice, choosing something to do—usually seeing a movie or attending a street fair—and experimenting with subway transfers to the event. And it is because of my extensive subway-riding knowledge that a friend nicknamed me La Diosa del Metro (the Subway Goddess).
I signed up for NFT’s e-newsletter and frequently e-mailed the company updates, either of places that closed or of new stores or restaurants that should be considered for the next edition. After receiving a newsletter in the autumn of 2002 asking for interns, I decided to apply for a position. The interview was my first one, and I got a position. However, I was surprised at how unprofessional the workspace was: it was a half-apartment, half-office converted sweatshop. When I started at NFT, there were not many regular workers, and I frequently found myself alone in the office, balancing researching, filing, and answering phones. This environment did not trouble me, though, and when new, college interns were hired, I felt strangely senior to them notwithstanding age and education. Also, these interns showed great variability; some of them left after working for a week or a few days, and the majority of them had no plan to stay with NFT after they completed the semester’s internship. I, on the other hand, rarely worked less than four days a week after school—even working full days when I did not have class—and stayed after my “internship hours” were completed.
My loyalty to the company did not go unnoticed, and when the summer came, I was offered part-time pay instead of an intern’s monthly stipend and worked full-time during July and August. In those two months, more responsibility was given to me, and instead of merely confirming the existence of already existing listings, I wrote whole articles for new titles, substantially contributing to the Boston book, and began to proofread book drafts and edit contributors’ commentaries to conform to house style.
All in all, I remained at NFT for nearly two years, leaving the company before beginning college to adequately prepare for the responsibilities of higher education. However, the experience provided me with not only practical knowledge of professional computer programs and business communication skills but also the drive to make publishing my profession.
Last summer, I took classes in order to accumulate enough credits to graduate a semester early, and I began to seriously plan my future. I decided that I should try to re-enter publishing after a two-year hiatus, so I applied for a dozen positions. Surprisingly, I did not obtain any of them—even with a qualified résumé thanks to NFT—but secured my present employment at Condé Nast Traveler through a friend.
At Traveler, I am updating files on international and national luxury hotels for the 2007 Gold List. I correspond with hotel managers and public-relations agencies mainly through e-mail and collect and organize documents, press kits, and images from over 500 locations. I find the duties similar to ones I had at NFT, though on a larger, more frenzied scale. I regularly have over twenty e-mails to reply to when I arrive in the morning and must answer them before beginning to query other hotels for information.
I am fortunate to add my time at Traveler to my overall professional publishing experience, and I plan to acquire a publishing certificate this coming school year. In closing, I thank you for the stipend, which will take care of daily necessities, such as food and travel, as well as contribute to my future success. I also want to bring to your attention how important it is for funds like yours to be created, to finance people who work of their own accord. In a New York Times article dated May 30, 2006, and titled “Take This Internship and Shove It,” the columnist expresses concern for people who work unpaid internships, what she calls “not jobs, only simulations.” She connects college students’ nonchalance regarding paychecks to companies’ ever-lowering standards of employment—including limited health-care benefits and non-existent pensions. Therefore, I again thank you for providing me, and others, a rewarding experience in more ways than one.