Covering business news, riots in Chile

Foreign Intrigue Intern

There’s nothing quite like interviewing a Spanish-speaking economist without speaking fluent Spanish or understanding financial markets. Through the Foreign Intrigue reporting scholarship, this was the first day of my summer internship with Thomson Reuters in Santiago, Chile.

Before heading to South America, however, I stopped in New York City for training in Times Square. Thomson Reuters, the largest international news agency, set high standards that left the prospective summer interns intimidated, but prepared to tackle 10 weeks of working for their wire service.

In 10 weeks, I gained hands-on experience covering business and financial news, student riots and a government cabinet reshuffle. Upon arriving in Chile, I learned how to navigate my way through the Spanish language both socially and professionally, though not without trial and error.

An office of wonderfully supportive co-workers helped me along the way. One of my first weekends in Santiago, I was invited to visit two co-workers at their vacation homes on the coast. Chilean hospitality is truly incredible. Friends of the family treated me as though we had known each other for years.

I generally worked 10- to 12-hour days, dividing my time between helping in the office and attending press conferences held by government officials. My boss joked that being thrown into the deep end was the best way to learn, and it certainly proved true. Every day became a little easier as I learned the ropes. On the weekends, I’d take day trips or explore the city. I was even lucky enough to experience skiing in the Andes.

The three months I spent in Chile improved my reporting and Spanish-speaking skills, but most of all fine-tuned my problem solving. Reporting in Spanish on the fly, missing a long-distance bus in the middle of nowhere due to Chilean time change, and making friends in a new country all required me to be resourceful and flexible.

After the internship ended, I spent a week traveling in the South of the country. Again, I was astounded by the incredible friendliness of people I had just met. I also had the opportunity to discuss the topics I had written and read about for months with the people I encountered  —  in Spanish.

Besides the obvious benefits of allowing me to develop professionally while experiencing another culture and practicing my Spanish skills, I was able to have all three intersect with these encounters in once-in-a-lifetime experiences. After reporting for a global audience, this gave a local context to my understanding of the issues affecting the country.

I discussed the educational protests with a mother and her 4-year-old daughter while they showed me a beautiful beach on the island of Chiloe in the south. On my bus ride back to Santiago, I heard the perspective of a weather equipment salesman about how he felt mining companies in the country guarded their weather-related data. Had I not improved my Spanish or spent time reporting in Chile, these conversations wouldn’t have been possible.

Returning home, I was a better journalist, but also had a better understanding of the world as a human being.