In today’s competitive academic climate, attending classes isn’t always enough to give you the boost you need to land that dream job. Interning is an extremely popular way to beef up your résumé and gain valuable skills in the process. One person in particular has made the most of her college experience by constantly staying engaged in work and internships.
Esther Katro is the Queen of Interning. Seriously. With over 10 internships under her belt, Esther knows a thing or two (or three!) about working hard and building her portfolio. Having recently graduated from college, she now works as a TV News Reporter for 5NEWS in Arkansas. During college Esther would commute several hours each day for internships in New York City from Philadelphia, all while maintaining a big smile. Esther’s upbeat and go-getter attitude is contagious, and she undoubtedly seizes her youth and makes the most of each day.
Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?
Esther Katro: Waking up early! College gives you the convenience to schedule your classes late in the afternoon, but take advantage of the all the hours in the day! I’ve completed six internships that were not in Philadelphia, where I went to college. I had five in New York City, and one in Washington D.C. In order to complete these internships, I had to wake up at 5AM to catch the Megabus to get to work in the morning. I didn’t think I could do wake up that early and still be productive the entire day, but I learned that I have so much energy as a young twentysomething, and it’s important to take advantage of all the energy you have at this age!
CJ: You majored in Broadcast Journalism at Temple University. How did you decide what to study?
EK: I grew up with parents who were Christian missionaries, so as a baby I grew up sleeping on airplane floors and was constantly being exposed to different people and cultures around me. I always knew I wanted a job where I interacted with different people everyday to tell their stories. My family watched the evening news each night, and when I saw the reporters sitting down and interviewing people, or chasing people down the street, I thought that’s what I want to do! I want to be a television reporter.
I chose to go to Temple University because I grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, and wanted to stay in the 4th media market and be able to give back to my community by covering stories in the area. I wanted to concentrate my studies in international relations after traveling to China and filming a documentary called “Esther Goes to China.” I believe that the more places people go and expose themselves to, the better they can understand how the world works to then make a difference in it and help solve problems. I hope I can do a lot of international work as a working journalist.
CJ: What cause or issue do you care greatly about and why?
EK: I’m a water advocate, along with Matt Damon! In high school I got involved with the group H2O for Life, which educates Americans on conserving water and then helps build wells and provide water to people in developing countries, where water is limited. Within this topic, I’m most passionate about women in these developing countries whose job it is to fetch water daily. This activity takes up to six hours of their day, and so they can’t get an education because they’re spending so much of their day traveling to get water from the well and bring it back to their families.
I’m very passionate about women getting an education, and hope that my platform as a journalist can also serve as a women’s rights advocate. I believe that every woman should have the right to a good education all over the world.
CJ: You earned the Congressional Award Gold Medal in 2013. How did you get involved with the Congressional Award and what was your biggest takeaway from the experience?
EK: When I joined H20 for Life, as mentioned above, the woman running the program also ran the Congressional Award program at my high school. I was already doing a ton of community service, and through this organization I was going to be doing a ton more!
The Congressional Award seemed like the perfect place for me to log my hours, and also meet like minded people who share my desire for community service and outreach. I’ve made friends at the community service events that I’ve attended or led that have become some of my best friends.
Through H2O for Life, I traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, to speak and film about water issues in the country and overseas. Working with people who were just as passionate about the World Water Crisis as I am, but also inspiring people to get involved with the water crisis, was one of the best experiences I have ever had.
CJ: You have had many internships over the years. Which ones stand out the most to you and what did you learn from those experiences?
EK: I knew I wanted to be a broadcast journalist after I watched the kids news show Nick News with Linda Ellerbee do a special on how girls who were my age didn’t have the opportunity to go to school where they lived in Afghanistan. At 11 years-old I wanted to make a difference.
As a sophomore in college I had the amazing opportunity to intern for Nick News with Linda Ellerbee, the show that inspired me to become a journalist, which is incredible! As an intern for her show, I was able to be on set when we interviewed Seth Myers, right in Linda’s home! I also got to act as a production assistant when we did a studio show at HBO Studios with Gloria Steinem called “Are We There Yet?” where we discussed if women have achieved equality to men yet, or if there’s still improvements to be made. This was my first internship in New York City, and it exposed me to so many successful people in the industry. The people who work at Nick News feel like my New York City family, and Linda Ellerbee has taught me some of the best interview techniques that I’ll carry with me for my entire life.
CJ: What advice would you give to a young person who is interested in pursuing a career in multimedia journalism?
EK: Intern everywhere. Seriously. I’ve had 15 media internships in both print, online, and broadcast journalism that all have been very different and have made me a well rounded journalist. I’ve taken sports internships, morning news internships (where I’ve had to be at the studio at 4 a.m.!!), and even wedding and food writing internships.
The more you expose yourself to as a journalist the better, and I think the most structured way to get that exposure is to intern. I think that traveling and opening up your eyes to as many people and cultures helps, but I strongly believe that interning in this industry is the best thing you can do for yourself. It’s important to know how to write clean copy quick and accurately, and to meet your deadlines, but it’s also important to know how to use a camera, to edit footage, and to talk in front of a camera. A multimedia journalist needs to be able to effectively accomplish every job description in a newsroom, and the only way to get good at that is to intern.
CJ: You’ve done a lot of commuting from school to your internships. What are your commuting tips and how do you stay productive during that time?
EK: I call the Megabus my mobile home, because I probably spend more time riding a bus than I do at my actual home in Philadelphia. I’ve had five internships in New York City and one in Washington D.C., and I took the Megabus to commute to all six of those places. It’s fun! You get to meet so many interesting people on the bus, and learn what they’re doing at these cities. But sometimes the person sitting next to you doesn’t want to talk, so in that case I try to get my homework done since the bus has Wi-Fi and power outlets.
I love to catch up on my reading with my Kindle which is great because the Kindle lights up so I don’t have to turn on the headlight above me and disturb the person sleeping next to me. I love to write on my iPad too. I love to write about my day. Barbara Walters once said that her greatest regret is not keeping a diary. When I read that quote, I thought, I’ve got to keep a diary of what I do everyday because as a journalist, commuting, everyday is so different and exciting!
My number one advice for commuting is to never ever sleep! Just look out the window and you’ll see the city lights lit up if you’re traveling at night, or you’ll see people just starting their day if it’s the morning. Or just people watch inside your bus or train. It’s really awesome to see how the world works and the many different people inside of it.
CJ: What is your favorite book?
EK: The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger (because there are some days when I felt I lived her life).
CJ: What is a book you read in school that positively shaped you?
EK: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.
CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on school, internships, and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?
EK: No two days are the same. Ever. Which is why I love commuting and why I’m a journalist. I love change. However, on a typical Monday I would get up at 5AM. Well, technically 4:58AM because I set three one minute alarms until 5AM. I pick out my clothes the night before so I get ready in about 10 minutes.
I drive to the train station which is about 10 minutes from my house and take a 40 minute train into Center City Philadelphia. From there, I hop on the Megabus, and take a 2-3 hour bus ride (depending on traffic) to New York City. I have a 30 minute walk to my building. I put in a full day of work at my internship, and then from there I do the same commute in reverse to come back home. So at least six hours of my day are spent commuting!
CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?
EK: My life is so fast-paced, so I often don’t have time to sit and think about what I should improve on except when I’m sitting in the bus commuting. I often think about my day too much in the bus or talk to the person next to me that I don’t get to write about everything that happened during the day. I regret that. I want to focus on writing more about my days, which requires a lot of discipline. I hope to one day compile my writing into a book of all my internship experiences…I just hope it won’t turn into a promotional ad about the Megabus.
CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?
EK: This is going to sound like I’m not human, but I can’t recall the last time I had a bad day and needed to unwind. Sometimes I’m convinced I’m a robot made in the bottom of a news basement somewhere. I just always have a very positive outlook on life, and it’s really hard for me to get bothered by something because I’m always looking ahead, and I never dwell on anything bad that happened. I’m always looking for the next story or the next internship.
But I will say that finding at least one person at your work or internship that can be a close friend is always very helpful, if you need to get something off your chest or just unwind. I’ve always been able to find other intern to become really great friends with, who I can share any dilemmas I’ve having with. Also, fro-yo always helps. Bad day = a big cup of frozen yogurt. It’s healthy right?!
CJ: What made you decide to go to Arkansas?
EK: I sacrificed a lot, if not all, of my college career for internships. I took internships at all hours of the day. I would drive to unpaid internship at 3am when I would see my college peers just leaving the bars. And while I learned a lot about journalism and the personalities in the business, I only saw the top of the field. I was only interning in top 10 markets. The opportunity in Arkansas, was my first on-air job offer. My gut told me not to take the job. I thought this was just the first of many offers. However, a big benefit to having so many internships is that I had so many different mentors and contacts in the business to go to for advice. And everyone told me to take the job.
One of my former internship bosses told me, “There’s only one New York, Philly and D.C.–the rest of the country is Arkansas.” Although it was scary to move so far away from home on the East Coast, the journalist in me knew I had to see this part of the country. I also didn’t want a break from college to entering the work force. I wanted to sit at graduation, knowing that after the ceremony I would hit the road with my parents, on my way to my first reporting job.
I guess you could say you need a crazy passion to work in television news, and I never wanted a day off.
CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
EK: Stop chewing gum! It’s going to get stuck in your braces and totally extend this whole metal inside your mouth process. Also, to stop wearing UGG boots, and to not pop your own zits because more will grow back! And I guess, I would tell myself to write everyday, be confident in myself, and to be nicer to my parents…they will be your best friends in your twenties and hopefully for the rest of your life!
Images by Esther Katro