After such a lot of effort over the last 6 months to secure my dream internship abroad, it really does seem odd that this time last year I was stressing over my Russian speaking exam and debating with my flatmate over whether two Dominoes pizzas in two days was excessive. I am now looking at a 4-month internship with my favourite publishing house on the other side of the world from rainy Glasgow. And it was the right book at the right time that got me here.
Thinking about the sheer coincidence that led to my journey over the pond still amazes me. It started when my aunty, quite randomly, bought me an amazing essay collection for my birthday. I had already chosen to write my final year dissertation in Comparative Literature, but after reading this book, my mind was in excitable overdrive and so, somehow, I found a way to incorporate all the most inspiring ideas from these essays into a dissertation about post-war literature.
Things really got going when I was adding the finishing touches to this work. As I wrote up the bibliography, I saw that the book I had loved so much had been published in Minneapolis, the city where my boyfriend had moved one year previous to work at the University of Minnesota. I discovered that this publishing house had an internship program and for the first time, I felt that I had stumbled upon a potential career path that intrigued me rather than making me cry inwardly at the thought that my student life was coming to an end.
It was difficult trying to contain my excitement in the quiet of Glasgow University Library.
From then on, my 2016 can be summarised thus:
May: Applied for Minneapolis internship with Coffee House Press and was rejected; the visa application process was unknown to them and was potentially difficult and time-consuming.
June: Graduation from The University of Glasgow in French and Russian
July: 1-week internship at a publishing house in Edinburgh
Was taken on as a (remote) volunteer reader at Coffee House Press, Minneapolis
Paid a ridiculous amount of money to an agency that claims to find work for you in the US (= Poor decision making borne from panic)
Travelled to Minneapolis as a tourist
August: Experienced the Minnesotan summer heatwave and practically boiled to death in tiny attic apartment. (“Wasn’t it below freezing the last time I was here??”)
September: The temperature cools down, thank goodness.
Coffee House Press tell me they’ll take me on as an intern for next season so long as I can figure out the visa process so that they don’t have to.
October: Blood, sweat and tears to try and organise an internship visa application
Less blood and sweat, and practically no tears to try and read as much as possible
Valeria Luiselli, my Mexican miracle, holds a reading and workshop in Minneapolis and I delay my flight home in order to meet her. (No.1 fan-girl moment.)
November: Blood, sweat and excessive tears to try and complete internship visa application.
Visa interview booked for the 10th of December at the US Embassy, London.
Books, books, books.
Started trying to write my own things
December: Return to Britain.
Visa application denied at London interview by grumpy man with hairy hands.
Just looking at this timeline, I feel overwhelmed by how much has changed for me. As somebody whose life has recently surged forward full throttle and emerged in 2017 almost unrecognisable, allow me to offer a few words of advice…
To those who are finishing university: Don’t panic. This will be incredibly difficult and you may feel like you’re just treading water; however- comfy though it may be down there- try not to bury your head in the sand. A degree is nothing more than an indication of potential. It won’t get you anywhere unless people feel that you are invested in the job you apply for. Look carefully for what you like doing, enthusiasm is hard to fake.
To those who want to write: I have read countless interviews and articles over the course of the last few months as an attempt to ensure my time unemployed was not wasted. One thing that’s clear from reading author interviews (those from the Paris Review are very long, but very detailed) is that everybody has their own technique and style for producing their best work. Some people have a word count, some people have a time limit and some people rent space away from home. Almost nobody has an easy ride. The only way to figure out what keeps you going is to try.
To those who worry they may never amount to anything: I’ve spent more time crying this year than at any other point in my life. Whilst I don’t recommend constant crying as a life style, it just shows that pushing yourself to achieve what you want is never easy. And if you feel strongly about a certain field or career path, rest assured there with be countless others who are jostling for a place there too. It’s survival of the fittest and you are only defeated when you decide so.
January 2017: Visa approved by the (infinitely friendlier and less hairy) staff at the US embassy in Belfast. Upcoming start date for Coffee House internship: Jan 18th
Bring it on, 2017