There are only so many things that I can tell you about Alabama. One is that it is unnaturally hot. Two is that drinking sweet tea with every meal is just as important as drinking eight glasses of water every day. And three, Nick Saben is a god for saving the University of Alabama football program.
Three months ago I moved to Tuscaloosa, Ala. for an internship. I received an e-mail about an internship opportunity with the West End Journal. Since I was desperate for a summer job, I replied. About a month later, I was asked to move after I finished my junior year and write for the newspaper until mid-August.
There were many reasons why I didn’t want to go. But for every reason for me not to go, there were a least two reasons why I should. Plus, I was very interested in leaving Iowa and writing about a place that I knew nothing about. As an aspiring journalist, it was important for me to get outside my comfort zone.
There were a few times I wanted to come home, but I didn’t. This experience forced me to learn about myself and how to adapt to a new environment.
As for my internship, I was able to expand my journalistic abilities and write for the West End Journal. The journal, which was based out of Stillman College, was a bi-weekly community based newspaper that dealt with issues that involved West Tuscaloosa, which was a predominately African-American neighborhood.
It was very refreshing to know that I was going into this internship with some experience, but I also knew that I did not know everything and that I wasn’t going to be writing about forum events and faculty changes.
My demographic was now working class people that relied on this newspaper to report on issues that would directly affect them and it felt great to be a part of that.
This internship also taught me versatility. For the first few weeks, I mostly wrote about neighborhood news. By the end of June, my editor asked me to write for the lifestyle and entertainment sections. It was a lot of fun to write about movies that came out over the summer and review restaurants, but it was not always easy.
The best part of my internship was my 10-day stint as a camp counselor at the University of Alabama’s Multicultural Journalism Workshop.
My editor had me work with teens that were interested in journalism. Every day, I had to share the knowledge that I have as a young journalist. I was even able to facilitate a small workshop of editorial writing.
This internship also allowed me to meet some really great people. I did a story on a small restaurant called “Brenda’s Hometown Deli” for our Fourth of July issue and the owner of the restaurant, Brenda Turner, knew that I was not going to be with any family on the upcoming holiday. Without hesitation, she invited me to spend the holiday with her family in Cottondale.
For the remainder of the summer, Turner watched over me and made me a part of her family.
There were so many great things that I was able to experience while I was in Tuscaloosa, that it was very hard for me to leave. Everyone that I met at Stillman College and a host of other places are people that I will never forget.
Even though I am not in Tuscaloosa anymore, I still regard my education on Alabama football and sweet tea as high points of my college education.
This was an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life and while it was hard to leave my comfort zone, I would definitely do it all over again if I had to.