An intern’s story: From Netflix to newspapers

Isabel Pen, an intern at the University of Texas Medical Branch Department of Marketing and Communications via the James Perry Kelly Memorial Summer Science Writing Internship, writes about learning on the job.


Two months ago, my plans for the summer were to lounge around in my pajamas and binge-watch all six seasons of “Parks and Recreation.”

This might be what every other teenager is doing, but somewhere along the line I decided to be productive and apply for a summer internship at the University of Texas Medical Branch. (Not to say that acquiring an encyclopedic knowledge of Pawnee, Ind., isn’t productive.)

I go to an early college high school, where students take college classes from freshman to senior year and graduate with an associate degree. Even though we’re held to a higher academic standard than other students in the district, most kids at this school still don’t listen to announcements.

Luckily, I paid attention to what my teacher said one day in April.

Among all the news regarding student council elections and yearbook sales, there was an announcement about the James Perry Kelly Memorial Summer Science Writing Internship. My ears perked up; science and English are not only two of my favorite subjects, but they are both areas in which I have received school achievement awards.

I would have to push my Netflix plans aside.

With recommendations from my English teacher and former biology teacher, I sent in my application.

About two weeks later, I received a phone call from a mysterious 409 number. I was hesitant to answer, but a bright, friendly voice greeted me. “Hello, this is Molly Dannenmaier with the UTMB Communications Department. I’m calling to inform you that you are one of three finalists for the science writing internship.”

I never thought the feelings of disbelief, honor and elation could occur simultaneously. Could they really be considering me?

The following day, I went to Guitar Center to try out some new guitars. As I stepped into the acoustic room, I felt a buzzing in my pocket.

“This is Raul Reyes, director of Media Relations. I would like to offer you the science writing internship.”

Is this really happening? The employees probably thought it was suspicious when I ran out the door and into my car.

“I would be honored.”

Three weeks later, I made my first trip to the UTMB campus to meet with the UTMB Department of Marketing and Communications. Everyone was affable and seemed genuinely excited to have me as their new intern.

A week from that visit was my first day. Dressed in my business casual best, armed with my laptop and water bottle, I walked in to the office ready to work. 

As soon as I set up my computer, Molly asked me to edit a piece that would actually be published in a real newspaper! I’m just a kid, but they value my opinion?

I looked over a scientific study for a feature story that I would be writing. I get to write a feature story?

We even took pictures for a news release. I assumed the first day would just be paperwork.

But this is not high school. This is the real world, and I get to be a part of it. The things I do matter and have real implications. This is something high school can’t teach.

So far, I’ve learned how to conduct interviews with experts, videography techniques and how to write a feature story. I’m ready and eager to see what the rest of my UTMB internship has in store for me.

Isabel Pen is a rising senior at Clear Horizons Early College High School in Clear Creek Independent School District

(1) comment

Stevie Maradeo

Good for you Isabel. The beauty of Netflix is that they will still be there whenever you land your dream job and take your first vacation. Until then keep working hard. I enjoyed this story and you have potential.

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