I couldn’t help but feel like an absolute arse when the BBC in Paris rang me up a couple days ago. After taking nine months to get back to me, I got an email asking if I was still interested in the BBC Erasmus internship and if so, whether I’d be free for a telephone interview on the 17 July. I replied saying I would be and on the 16 July I was informed not only that half the interview would be in French (parlez-vous francais?) but also that it would be a conference call. Yes, I’d be speaking to 4 people from Paris, London and Brussels all at the same time. Talk about intimidating.
My initial issue was that I was unaware that the internship was news-based. There was me hoping somehow that I’d be on some fancy French reality TV show, when they actually expected an in-depth knowledge and passion for front-page headlines. Who would have thought?
They started by asking “why the BBC?” I always hate this question. “Why me?” “Why us?” Well truth be told, I want a career in the media. And at 20 years old, I don’t really have the qualifications to pick and choose. So having made dozens of relatively similar applications, it just happened to be that the BBC was one of them that replied. “But it’s the BBC!” I hear you say. Granted, it sounds good. I’ll rephrase: it sounds great. But right now, whether it’s the BBC or some middle-of-the-street TV broadcaster with only 5 employees, I’ll take what I’m given.
Questions become more in depth, my point of conversation veers towards fashion, and then I’m suddenly cut short by a man in Brussels who is basically saying “that’s all very well and good, but we don’t give a s*it about fashion”. Well that’s awkward. I’m then asked who my favourite BBC journalist is and why. Truth be told, I don’t read, watch or listen to BBC news. Not often anyway. So instead I go on about how much I love celebrity writer (for The Times) Caitlin Moran because I like her sense of humour. I suppose a sense of humour wouldn’t be fitting for a murder enquiry, but he asked for my opinion and that’s what he got!
Then, I got to practise some French. The first thing I was told to do was speak about something I’d read in a French newspaper this past week. Let me get this straight: you actually think I read French newspapers? I struggled. “Well maybe something that happened in France that you read in an English newspaper?” Still, no clue. This is when they tell me that France was bombed and there’s nothing left but a few frogs who managed to swim the channel. I then made vague assertions about the euro and the new president whose name I’d momentarily forgotten. And then a passing comment about Sarkozy. I was on my laptop, furiously typing into Google incongruous words and phrases in an attempt to string together a few lines about recent French escapades. Coming to think of it, I probably should have made up a story about a Frenchman named Pierre who abducted an Englishwoman in the Alps and fed her to his pet goat. Bet they’d like that.
The lady in Paris had picked up on my interest in fashion so started asking me about French fashion (because obviously she felt this was a kind thing to do given my non-existent knowledge of anything else happening in France). In short of listing Yves Saint Laurent and Prada of which I know little if anything about, I thought it fitting to talk for 5 minutes about my love of Italian brand Gucci and their India-exclusive handbags made using bamboo. It’s times likes this more than ever that you appreciate the English-French online Collins dictionary. I then went on about how much I loved British designer Stella McCartney’s creations for the GB Olympic team. I swear I wasn’t trying to avoid talking about France on purpose; I just didn’t have anything meaningful to say. The woman was encouraging me, noting how it’s difficult to go from one language to another so quickly. Trust me lady; that was not the problem. The problem is that I know nowt at all about France. It was like an English graduate applying for a job in Medicine. Some things are just never meant to be.
The man from Brussels then refers to a comment I made on my covering letter about how I’d love to be working in the centre of Paris during this fascinating period of European politics. He asked what exactly it was that I found so fascinating. Come on!! I was just trying to make myself sound intelligent - give me a break! For those of you who know me, you’ll know that politics isn’t exactly my forte. In fact, I find it horrendously boring (yea yea, naïve, whatever). So I went on about how fascinating the current unemployment rates are and how it was fascinating to see how the government would deal with it. Yep, I pretty much said that I want to go all the way to France just to get a glimpse of unemployment. It’s like planning a day out to sit and stare at the homeless. Ironic too, since I’m planning on going to France to steal an internship off a hard-working French student.
I think it’s safe to say, I didn’t get the job. Let’s just hope they don’t validate their decision with any particularly harsh reasons. One always hopes that they're their worse critic. But on the bright side, I already have the International Herald Tribune internship to look forward to, so I really shouldn't complain.
What have I learnt from this experience? To do some bloody research beforehand otherwise you’ll embarrass the hell out of yourself.
Watch this space.