Fear Factor: The Internship

My heart was pounding fast, caffeine and panic rushing through my blood. Next to me, a pile of papers containing the names of media publications and editors and their contact information. I read my boss’ email: “I’d like you to work on pitching these publications today and this time, why don’t you call first.”




I need to call people.

And talk to them.

I was meditating over these words again and again until my body completely froze in white fear.

Hi, my name is Priscilla Liu. I am currently a Communications Intern in a support organization for United Nations focused on maternal health. In the past, I have interned for Reuters, the British Parliament, Ernst & Young, CLSA Investment Group, and a local business magazine – but I never once made a phone call to pitch for an article. You see, phone calls are precisely the reason why I’m so good at writing. Writing is great. You can plan. You can research. You can anticipate. You can be your better self, and sober. But calls – calls mean direct contact with the real world, with real people who don’t hesitate to hang up when you suck.

I didn’t like the idea of cold-calling publications, because unlike in phone interviews where people actually want to talk to you, these editors really don’t want to.

Slowly, I withdrew the right hand that had been hovering above the office phone and pulled out my own cellphone. Instead of calling the editors, I texted my friend, Fay:

Dude, I’m dying. This internship is killing me. I’m supposed to pitch to a hundred publications and I barely know what I’m supposed to say. I’m scared and nervous. And I usually start talking in weird British accent when I’m nervous, which makes it even worse. What if I fuck this up? I think I’m gonna outsource my internship to one of those call centers in India.

Fear is very commonplace for interns. It’s so integrated to our daily existence that we might as well list “not-shitting my pants” as one of our skills. The fear of not knowing what to do. The fear of being wrong. The fear of being disqualified as a professional. All these fears are legitimate and natural, even for a seasoned intern like me.

My friends tend to see me as someone who exudes an air of certainty and confidence and associate me with the smell of success. Look at that perfect hair bun! The Asian girl must have it all together! So they think. Well, the Asian girl doesn’t have it together. If anything, she tries to pretend from time to time, even when inside she’s all trainwreck and crazy butterflies.

But what is more important than the relentless raids of fear is discovering your own courage to undertake challenges and growing out of that fear. What is more important than doing the right thing is to do what you can and treat every moment as a learning moment. What is more important than not knowing is learning to know more. Hence, I encourage all of us to go to our internships with an awareness of our current abilities, a humility to learn from others, and a capacity to forgive ourselves.

After two shots of espressos, my body was so freaked out and stressed that there was nothing left to do but to punch in the numbers and hold the receiver close to my ear.

“Good afternoon, LA Times. How can I help you?”

Deep breath.


Featured Image: Google Images

Priscilla Liu is a multifaceted writer who complains and criticizes because deep down she believes in the good of mankind and the world can do better. She reads voraciously because she did not fit in well in high school nor was she particularly good at math. A sentient being who enjoys traveling and eating, Priscilla is from Jakarta, Indonesia, and continues to be an observant outsider in New York City. She is studying Economics to figure out why writers can’t do their jobs and afford housing at the same time.

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