RGNN Cuba: My Dream Internship

Bright and early on the first Monday morning of July, I left the United States once again for the sunny province of Havana, Cuba to begin the internship of my dreams. Thanks to Rooster Global News Network, I spent two weeks interning in one of the world’s most coveted travel destinations learning the ins and outs of Travel Journalism and Photography. Cuba welcomed me and served as the perfect host for my fellow interns and myself as we explored the streets of both Havana and Trinidad during our time there.

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Exploring Havana in style.

This internship could not have come at a better time. With just one-year left of university, I was determined to find an opportunity that would give me a better sense of what I wanted to do after graduation. I came across the internship through my friend who received an email about it, and immediately submitted my application within twenty-four hours. RGNN’s internship was the answer to a prayer I’ve had for quite some time now, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with the organization. It is my hope that by writing about my experience, someone else can discover this amazing opportunity.

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Some of the group with our RGNN mentors/experts.

The RGNN Cuba internship seminar consists of two parts: Journalism and Photography. My program members and I trained with experts and mentors in these two fields to attain the skills necessary to work in the Travel Journalism industry. Through Editorial Meetings, Journalism Workshops, Photography & Video Workshops, along with Mentoring and Feedback Sessions, we each produced a total of two articles to create our very own travel guide to Cuba, published in digital format through the news agency by the end of our program. More than that, each of the 16 students “graduated” with a portfolio of Publications, a Travel Journalism & Photography Internship Certification, A Certification of Academic Credit and a Letter of Recommendation of Merit upon completion by acclaimed Journalist Benjamin Jones, who also acted as the Editor-in-Chief of the seminar.

List of Workshops we took part in:

Travel Journalism Workshops-RGNN Expert & Mentor Benjamin Jones

  1. Travel Writing 101: Potential Markets, Picking a Destination, Landing an Assignment
  2. Get Paid to Travel: Taking Your Travel Writing Career (and Income) to the Next Level

Travel Photography Workshops-RGNN Expert & Mentor Irolan Maroselli (Havana, Cuba)

  1. “Cuba in Photos: Capturing the Iconic History of Havana”
  2. “Prepping Your Cuba Photos for Publication: Feedback Session”

Travel Photography Workshops-RGNN Expert & Mentor Julio C. Muñoz (Trinidad, Cuba)

  1. “Tips, Tricks & Techniques to Achieve Better Street Photography”
  2. “Documenting Trinidad, Cuba’s 500 Year-Old Spanish Colonial UNESCO World Heritage Site”
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Our first workshop with Benjamin Jones.

Each workshop was different and I learned something new every day. I enjoyed our workshops and mentoring sessions especially because they offered the opportunity to work side by side (even in the sweltering heat of Havana) with an expert who specializes in the field you are learning about, and receive instantaneous feedback. Since I am not a Journalism major, I came into this internship not knowing the basics of the field, but because of the interactive and holistic nature of the program, I can confidently say that I know how to go about researching, interviewing for, writing and pitching an article to a publication company, as well as capturing the “money shot” with any camera.

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Walking the streets during a photography workshop.

As mentioned before, RGNN’s Cuba Internship seminar is a two-week program that first spends one week in Havana and another in Trinidad. As a group, we walked the streets of the colorful cities hoping to find inspiration for a topic to write on (which wasn’t the hardest thing to come across in a country like Cuba). After selecting a topic, we pitched our ideas to our Editor-in-Chief Benjamin Jones, before going on our way do whatever research necessary to pull together our individual articles. Also important to note, in both Havana and Trinidad, the program provided us with local support guides to help us go about conducting this research.

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My hosts in Havana.

Something I found to be unique is the immersive nature of the program, which really influenced our overall experience while travelling around the island. To encourage a “people-to-people” kind of engagement, we lodged in boutique style Cuban homes, known as “casa particulares” in Havana and referred to as “hostales” in Trinidad. Complementing this aspect of the RGNN Cuba experience would be the city tours, beach excursions, and other fun activities such as a classic Cuban car tour that was offered. More than that, the program fee covers your breakfast and lunch (in both Havana & Trinidad), transportation (airport pick-up, drop-off and in-country), as well as 24-hour bilingual local emergency support. When we weren’t working to meet our deadlines, we spent our free time exploring and enjoying Cuba, during the day and the night! One of my favorite activities a few of my program members and I did together was a salsa class at a studio right around the corner from our casa! We had so much fun learning how to salsa the “Cuban way” and it was definitely a memorable moment from my trip.

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Enjoying dinner at La Fábrica de Arte Cubano.

Overall, my internship with RGNN was incomparable and unlike any experience I’ve had before. I came into the program not knowing what to expect and having many doubts for myself because I am not majoring in journalism. However, I forced myself to start the program with a specific mindset and to look at it for what it was: a learning experience. I told myself to not be intimidated if I found that I was the least experienced writer or if someone took better pictures than me, but to instead use my colleagues and mentors as resources to learn and perfect my own skills from. By the end, this program encouraged me to take my writing and myself seriously and gave me the motivation I needed to pursue my dream of becoming a journalist one day. From my RGNN Cuba experience, I learned a lot about the field of journalism overall, as well as specific tips for Travel Journalism & Photography. I learned how to conduct research in not so ideal circumstances (such as not having access to reliable Wi-Fi 24/7) and how to adapt to other people’s schedules (which can be tricky when you have a deadline to make). I also conducted all of my interviews in Spanish – something I was very anxious about, but now I look at as a major accomplishment.

To RGNN, thank you for pushing me outside of my comfort zone and giving me the chance to explore, learn, grow and become more of the person I want to be. The most important take-away I have from my experience is that I am capable of absolutely anything I work hard towards accomplishing. I realize it is a long journey I have ahead of myself, one filled with much rejection, failure, trials and tribulations, but now more than ever I am excited to get started and to see where I go from here!

From Cuba…with love,

SK xo

To read Vol. II, Summer 2017 of RGNN’s Cuba Magazine click here! To view my portfolio and read my published articles for the magazine click here!

Don’t forget to check out all my pictures from Cuba in my last post:  Photo Diary: Cuba

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