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A Sit Down with Scholars: Episode 4 “A Sit Down with a Gap Year Student”

by | Sep 15, 2021 | Internships

This is a transcript of the podcast. Some changes may be made for grammatical errors or clarity.

Hello everyone, this is Emily as host of A Sit Down with Scholars. This is a podcast where we hear straight from present or previous interviews. These interviews sit down with me to share what skills it takes to be an intern, and what benefits they gained from their internship experiences. This is the fourth episode for this episode, I spoke to Nile Lansana. Nile has graduated in May 2021 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in journalism and English creative writing. In Fall 2020, he made the decision to take a gap year, he shares his journalism and art internship experiences in high school and college, along with what his plans are for his gap year ahead.

Emily: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Nile: Hm, I think, I would see myself living on my own. Where I don’t know yet. But on my own, in the studio or roommates. And, I will see myself with a book out, at least one book with my name on it. It’s funny, I just had a talk last night about financial stability. Somehow, I see myself having multiple streams of income that I can use simultaneously. So, if one of those is like book sales, while one is working at a media publication, then one of those is like coaching soccer or doing teaching work. I could see myself doing those things.

Nile; And yeah, those are I think like the big things. I would want to see myself out of like working to a point where art can be my main thing. My main source of income, my main passion, my main profession. I want to be like Toni Morrison where she would just get up whenever she wanted, and then write, you know, Like that’s all I’m trying to be, you know how she got there was like, she worked like 20 years as an editor. Yeah, and then was also putting out books simultaneously. Now, you know, and I could see. I guess journalism being, That type of path for me but I’m also like, not necessarily like, I, I’m not like I have to do print, I have to be broadcast, or I have to like, just like be writing like I’m very flexible. Right now, I will give our J school. I love our J school. I think that going through J school has given me many tools where I felt confident in doing many different things.

Nile: Yeah, I think a lot of that comes from me, comes from going to J school and having done many different things I thought I’ve done many different types of stories in college. Now like I wouldn’t feel confident, doing a lot of different stories for different types of outlets.

Emily: Yeah, I mean I agree because I feel like you’re exposed to different things at the J school. It’s like now. I have really grown into interviewing but I feel like I know how to interview because of the J school even though my role is more like communications. But I also can do a little recording. So, I, and I agree with that. And, that will all happen in the next five years.

Emily: Tell me about your past internship experiences. I feel like you’ve probably done more than I even realize, but tell me about your internship experiences throughout college and what those different internships were for.

Nile: I actually did my first one in high school. There’s this organization in Chicago called After School Matters. They set people up for like summer jobs and internships. After School Matters primarily was my first job experience.

Nile: So I did 5 years of high school. In my second junior year, and I did this internship called The Beat, Which was like a journalism internship for your Chicago authors, and, it was about 15 Chicago kids. The whole thing was like, centered around dismantling negative stereotypes in the media about Chicago. And so like either work format ended up being published with a book called “The End of Chiraq.” I got a lot of homies publishing in that as well. It was funny like two summers ago, I went to my favorite bookstore and I saw that and I was like oh, I know the person at the front.

Nile: So, that was cool. Then, my first-ever journalism internship was with Joshua Adams and Rebecca, I don’t remember her last name. The people there both had professional journalism experience and like they were super dope and like really good instructors, and like our elevating, especially like my understanding of like what journalism can do. But I think that even that was like a less professional center.

Nile: Whereas the other internship I did in high school, which was Columbia Lakes, which was through Columbia College Chicago. Now, that was super professional. So it was again like 20 Chicago high schoolers, and we only had two professors running it, Brenda Butler and Charles Jefferson. Brenda’s, I think, still, she’s either on the board of NABJ Chicago. And then, Charles, I don’t know what he’s up to now. Then, we had a college mentor, whose name was Soloman Davis, and he went to Missouri. He got an award in high school for journalist of the year in the city or the state. Soloman was cool.

Nile: And I got the internship and I was like “I’m gonna do sports.” I was like so far I’m like, I’m gonna do sports journalism. It actually worked out perfectly because of my mentor Abbas. So like they paired every student with a professional journalist. So, once or twice a week, we would be at the spot 4 days a week. Once or twice a week, our mentors would come in and work with them on the final project.

Nile; And so, the mentors were like, to help cultivate upon our story. So, my mentor, Abbas Salem. He’s super cool. He was a sports reporter in college, and he did like work for The Undefeated. I was like “this is perfect, I have a sports mentor.” And then, I ended up doing a story about special education. Like, critiquing the issues with special needs education in the city, and talking to parents and families with special needs children about their experiences with CPS (Chicago Public Schools). I talked to like my fam about Ari. And, our family friends who have children on the autism spectrum and whatnot, and then talked to aids. I talked to like a bunch of people. And that story meant a lot to me. I had a really deep personal connection with it.

Nile: And I ended up getting a shout-out at the final ceremony, from the keynote speaker, whose name was Malin Herindricka (sp). She worked for the Sun Times at the time, and she was or still is the NABJ (The National Association of Black Journalists) president. And she was a Chicago chapter president. And she was our guest speaker at our ceremony. She said like “Nile, your story made me cry”

Nile: Ah, yeah, so that was a cool one. I forgot I really liked that internship. and I think that is when I felt like, “I can be a journalist.” When I was thinking about college, I was like, I love writing I love sports, I was going to do the best thing? Journalism. I had never done any journalism before, so I did those who understood the high school like after that I was like okay, I feel good like I can do this. And then I got into the J school. Here we are.

Nile: But, I feel like The Black Voice was kind of was my internship throughout all of college. I did an unpaid internship, the summer after my sophomore year with this org called the Underrepped, and it was an org. That was centered around uplifting black students who go to Predominantly White Institutions, and I was the event coordinator. And so, I planned this event called Shots and Shots, and the whole event was like providing free professional headshots. Well, not free, but cheap. And then I organized a panel with a bunch of like, successful people. Just like successful people in Chicago and relatively young folk to talk about their experiences. I came up with all the questions. And, yeah, I ran the whole event. And it went pretty well we got a decent turnout for I think it was like a Friday afternoon in Chicago. And that was really fun. I would like to do more stuff. But yeah, so those were all the internships I’ve done.

Nile: But, I feel like the Black Voice was an internship and I did it all four years of college.

Emily: Yeah, and you were the co-editor-in-chief right?

Nile: Yeah co-editor-in-chief my senior year, and it was an incredible unforgettable chaotic experience. But I loved every minute of it.

Emily: And you made an incredible magazine.

Nile: Yeah, “Capture the Culture.” I gave some copies to my hobbies and they were like, Nile can you sign them and I was like, wow I’m famous. We are here.

Emily: Let’s transition into your gap year. I know you’re like only really, like, a month in technically, I don’t know what you consider if you are now.

Nile: I don’t know if I’m in it because it’s the summer. Summer is different for me. But you’re right, you’re right.

Emily: Yeah, so I guess, why did you choose to take a gap year?

Nile: I was not ready at the beginning of the first semester of my senior year to apply to grad school. I was just not ready. I still thought about the pandemic, I didn’t think it gonna progressed more toward the more as like, as much as it has. And, so I thought that we would still have another year of not being in person like if I’m going to do grad school and not gonna. I felt like it would be a waste, partially a waste of my time to do it on Zoom. I also was tired of Zoom and tired of not being in person. Like, I did my years at Zoom university. It’s done and never happening again. At that time, no, no there was no way.

Nile: Oh, and in hindsight, I feel like it was a good decision. I don’t we’re not fully into the idea but I feel like it was the right decision. Like, I don’t think I was ready to go straight to grad school after this year I think. I feel like this year was one of the most intense years in the history of being a college student in the world. And so I feel like, I deserve a break and I deserve to take some time off, and I feel like that’s what I need for me right now. And, I think it’s been a struggle like giving myself permission to fully do that. But, I feel like it was important. I also know from having homies who are like in grad school now, the applications take a lot of time.

Nile: And so I was not ready for that. In September, we just started senior year. This is the first time I was co-editor-in-chief of The Black Voice. And like, it was our first year as a black voice of being like a funding student org and getting paid. And having to restructure our budget. And that was a huge responsibility for me, and that took a lot of time, and I was taking 17 credits. So yeah, there was just no way.

Emily: I couldn’t imagine. Okay, so what are you hoping to gain from this gap year?

Nile: I want to like really spend time figuring out who I am, how I move when I’m not a student. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ve been a student since I was three. Oh, I have been a student for 20 years. It’s the first time taking off in my life where I’m not a student. Everything that I’ve done was in the midst of being a student. But now, I get to sit and see how I am when I am not a student how I structure my day and how I use my time. Like, building relationships. How do I want to be engaged in what I care about and what I’m passionate about?

Nile: You know, I think a lot about= the work that I do with the Black Voice. It would not have been so much as a student. When I was just doing the Black Voice and that was it, I was like, “oh, that’s perfect.” But I think there were times where it’s been a lot because I was a student at the same time.

Nile: I did the Obsidian poetry retreat in December. Which was like the week before finals the first semester, and that was like dope. It was the first poetry retreat I ever did on Zoom. But that felt like a lot because it was in GMT, which is like UK time. So I woke up at 4 am, and doing this retreat for six hours, and then going to class on Zoom, but it was crazy, right. But if I was just doing a retreat and that was all I was doing, that would be dope. Right.

Nile: So I think I want to really like spending time, like figure out how I am and what I want when I’m not a student and guide more into like self-care what that means for me. I plan on applying to journalism internships I have already applied to City Bureau, which is this publication in the city. But they’re doing a reporting fellowship for the summer. but I kind of right now, like the person who I interviewed with. She told me that they’re having it in the fall too. So I think right now I’m waiting to hear if I get in or not, but I think whether I get it or not. I think I might just want to do it in the fall because that might only really take a summer and chill. And I think it’d be a good thing for me to like have like to start within the fall, especially when I think like the fall is gonna be stuff is gonna be more open than it is right now anyway like I know the city is basically supposed to open up completely next week. It’s gonna be wild.

Nile: I hope that that’s going to propel me into more connections more relationships with good people, and like their opportunities. And I also plan on, figuring out. I feel like I did a decent amount of this last year. Cuz like I was home because of the pandemic. But I want to really figure out what it’s like to balance being an artist, and then having a job. Even though I feel like I’ve done, you know, I feel like I’ve done that in school and I feel like I was like, in school, and I had a job and was doing poetry right like I was doing all these things. So I think that’s the thing that you know how people be like, oh, like you graduate college, or in the real world, like I’ve been in the real world. And I’ve been doing this stuff.

Nile: You know, I’ve been doing this, and I think you’re just not under the guise of being a college student, but even like college students you’re still like a human being. in the real world, probably living on your own and like functioning on your own, you know. And yeah, so I think I want to like really establish how I bounced that. I’d love to make my website. I want to start figuring out, what it’s like to market a book to publishing presses and marketing manuscripts. I want to, like, meet more people especially artists like connect and collab with more people. I would love to put it out, well I’ve had this idea for a minute. I worked on a poetry film my junior year, and then I was supposed to release it, but then like Rona happened on that completely interrupted. But I had a poem that I wrote I want to do like a little film for, so I would love to do that. Right, yeah, I got a lot. Yeah, so we got, we got so far.

Emily: And I’m sure, I’m sure, more, more has come towards you like you have your, your year set up for you know.

Nile: we’re, we got, we are working, we got plans in the works. but I’m also open and flexible.

Emily: Yeah, maybe like that’s just like what the pandemic has kind of taught all of us not to make too far-out plans.

Nile: Yeah, you never know.

Emily: The only last question I have about gap years would be about post-gap year. I guess you kind of talked about grad school.

Nile: I think, grad school is the tentative plan right now, like TBD. But I’m not fully set on grad school, yet. I want to talk to more people who actually know in grad school and have been successful after, And talk to them about what truly what their grad school experience was like. And if they felt it was worth it. And just the pros and cons, you know. I would only go if it was fully funded. My biggest things are the money and being fully funded. And the faculty. If I could, you if it’s possible, for me to get a sense of who would be in my cohort before, but I think that, depends sometimes. And then also the location so like where, where I would be if I will be near people that I know if I would in a spot in an environment that I rock with. If I would be in a living situation that I would rock with.

Emily: Yeah. definitely. I think that’s pretty much all the questions that I have for you. Is there anything that I haven’t asked that you’d like to speak about?

Nile: You know, I think, graduating college is always thought of as like a big achievement, but also like to know, too many people in limbo sometimes, but I think especially now. As I said, we graduated in the craziest years in the world. And so I think that it’s okay to take your time, and it’s okay to like not feel not pressure yourself and be like, I need to have this job I need to have this internship, that sounds important. But it’s also important to make sure that you are okay, mentally, and emotionally. You rest and rejuvenate and recuperate. Because you’re not going to be at your best in whatever professional setting or in whatever setting you’re in period. If you are going not checking in with yourself.

Emily: Nile has the best advice when it comes to prioritizing yourself over rushing into the next steps of life. If you have previous internship experience and want to be a guest on this podcast, email me at emily@hirescholars.com.

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