Learning by doing: Bell finds passion through internship

Learning by doing: Bell finds passion through internship

Learning by doing: Bell finds passion through internship
Erin Bell

By Erin Bell

Editor's note: The editor-in-chief of Doane's student-produced campus newspaper (The Doane Owl) and award-winning student journalist, Erin Bell '15 just finished a prestigious summer reporting internship with the Scripps Howard Foundation in Washington D.C. She graciously shared her story with the Doane Blog. Lucas Fahrer, Doane Blog editor

Erin Bell

Erin Bell '15 (front row, third from right) is from Julesburg, Colorado, and is beginning her senior year after a summer internship with the Scripps Howard Foundation in Washington D.C.

 

I’ve asked random strangers on the street to empty their pockets and count how many pennies and nickels they had. I’ve been in the middle of a protest. I’ve been in the same room as Michelle Obama (twice). I’ve watched things explode on the grounds of the Washington Monument.

To say the least, spending the summer reporting for the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire in Washington D.C. was memorable.

Erin Bell at the White House

First lady Michelle Obama joins the cast of “The Lion King” as it performed Friday at the Kids’ State Dinner at the White House.

 

When I applied for the internship last fall, I was unsure whether I had a chance of being accepted into the program. The foundation hires six interns from around the country every semester, including the summer, to get hands-on experience working in the nation’s capital. The summer internship is the most competitive, simply because students don’t have to take off school to participate so more apply, and to be honest, I doubted my abilities. I’m a small-town girl who chose to go to a small college, and the thought of making it in a city with millions of people intimidated me.

 

Erin Bell at a Protest

Protesters from around the U.S. join together to rally against violence in Gaza in Washington D.C.

 

After being thrown into a variety of new situations, I’ve realized I’m more capable than I thought.

I thought I’d get lost. I didn’t.

I thought I’d be scared interviewing important people. I wasn’t.

I thought I couldn’t juggle being a multimedia journalist. I could.

Instead, I have a lot of conversation starters.

When people see Jon Stewart making fun of Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., on the Daily Show for berating the director of the IRS during a Congressional hearing about the lost Lois Lerner emails, I can say, “I was there.”

 

Erin Bell medal

Raoul Wallenberg’s half-sister, Nina Lagergren, accepts the Congressional Gold Medal on her brother’s behalf.

 

I watched Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, award the Congressional gold medal, the highest civilian honor, posthumously to Raoul Wallenberg, a man who saved almost 100,000 Jews during the Holocaust.

And I won’t lie, I felt a strange sense of power having a press pass that allowed me to walk (almost) anywhere in the Capitol unescorted.

It wasn’t necessarily glamorous.

At the hearing about the lost Lois Lerner emails, I almost got trapped in the Rayburn House Office Building, nearly missing the last metro, because it was a rare night hearing that lasted almost four hours.

I was only allowed to stand on a small platform in a roped-off area during the Congressional gold medal ceremony – only being allowed to basically crawl out to photograph the awarding of the medal.

But through the entire experience – not to sound cliché – my horizons were broadened.

I interviewed people who had been homeless. I saw where they used to sleep, what garbage cans they used to eat out of, where they spent their days. I learned about how they slipped into poverty and how they got back on their feet.

I spoke to the man who built Guantanamo’s first detention facilities and heard why he thought maintaining the site was “helping the terrorists.”

I spoke to educators about the difficulties of implementing the highly controversial Common Core standards, specifically in rural schools that don’t always have the necessary technology.

I had to be persistent. I had to be patient. I had to work hard.

But spending two-and-a-half months living and working in an influential, fast-paced city taught me more than I imagined, reinforced why I want to be a journalist and provided a lot of memorable moments.