4 Feb 2013

New Beginnings & Reflections

Where did all the time go?  It's only occurred to me recently that I have but a mere month left of my internship at the International Herald Tribune.  Someone give me a hanky.  As in a handkerchief, not a hanky panky.  It seems like just yesterday that I arrived in Paris, my life packed into two bulging suitcases and my legs trembling.  I'm surprised there were no tears.  And I was off to start a new life somewhere I'd never been before, all by myself.  Cue: Celine Dion.

Anyway, five months down the line and I've come to the conclusion that my French isn't really improving much.  Wait, let me rephrase that, I came to that conclusion a long time ago.  Everyone always told me that after a couple months in France, it would suddenly 'click' and I'd be speaking the lingo like a pro.  Five months later, I'm still waiting for that click.  "When you start dreaming in French, you know you've cracked it!" they say.  The solution?  Speak French 24/7.  What's stopping me? I work with a bunch of expats (albeit lovely ones).  Admittedly some of them speak pretty decent, if not fluent, French.  But equally many of them speak less French than I do.  Then again, my grasp of the American language is certainly coming on leaps and bounds.  For example, I say 'leeezure' instead of 'leisure' now and 'zeeeebra' instead of 'zebra'.  Oh dear, my stiff upper lip is steadily sagging.

Nevertheless, I'm pretty relaxed about this realisation because my next internship starting on 4th March at French online shopping platform Twenga will give me the boost of French that I need.  Well that's the plan anyway.  I will literally refuse to speak English to anyone.  Pretend I don't know the language.  Shrug and point at the ceiling when someone asks if I want a coffee.  That sorta thing.

Yet despite speaking zero French, I will honestly say that I have loved my time here at the IHT, soaking up the newsroom vibe and having a laugh when someone accidentally calls me 'Hannah', so I will be sad to leave.  (NB: I don't think the 'Hannah Montana' joke will ever grow old.)  Though there is a lot less running around, phone ringing, screaming at printers and flapping bits of paper around furiously than you might have expected; everything is very orderly (until perhaps five minutes before deadline and a page still hasn't been sent off.)  It's been such a frugal experience and despite having the same day-to-day routine (which inevitably means I'm now super speedy at my job), I've had the chance to meet some really fascinating people who eat culture and head-lines for breakfast and have shown me and taught me a lot.  It's also interesting how none of them would suggest journalism as a career path; not now at least with the way the printed press is headed.

The view from the top of the Eiffel Tower says a lot about where I work.  Just look towards the eyesore on the skyline and voila.  All the skyscrapers and office blocks have been bunged here and this area is known as 'La Defense', located in the banlieu of Paris which admittedly is a slightly glum place to work compared to the beauty of Paris.  Forget about finding cute little cafes to while away your lunch break.  We're talking Subway, McDonalds and over-priced Japanese take-outs.  (I don't know why, but I have a strong distaste for places which have photographs of their food on the menu.)  But despite its relative dreariness, the La Defense metro stop welcomes chicly dressed businessmen and women from all over Paris and the burbs who waltz off into their shiny office blocks, Starbucks coffee in hand.  And I guess I'm now one of them.  Perhaps minus the 'chicly dressed' part, because the dress-code in the office is pretty casual.

I was talking to a colleague on the way to the metro recently and asked him whether it's the done thing to go out for drinks together in the evening after work.  Apparently ten years ago that was the norm.  Now, it's become a rarity; the collegiate atmosphere has disintegrated.  No-one goes out mid morning to take Starbucks orders and there are certainly no long lunch breaks discussing potential office romances.  The furthest one might venture is going for a ciggy and lending someone a lighter.

Contrary to opinion though, we do know how to have fun: 

Occasionally biscuits (sorry, I should say 'cookies'), chocolate or cake will be brought into the newsroom cafeteria by journalists and editors which is always a welcome treat.  That's often a pretty social occasion as it will bring in hoards of people from all over the newsroom who come to inspect and eat the day's delights.  We also celebrated Thanksgiving in the office in true American style and we popped a few bottles of Champagne for our 125th anniversary.  We were even sent a huge bowl of 125th anniversary special edition M & Ms which were so s'moreish.  I may have scooped my plastic cup into the bowl a few times. Let's just say my tongue was a little yellow afterwards. 

So what I'm trying to say is, while we're not all going down to our local to have a pint or two every night, there is still a sense of community and I've loved being part of it.  These past months at the IHT have given me the opportunity of a life-time.  I'm interning at a global organisation with bureaus in London and Hong Kong as well as the headquarters here in Paris, not to mention its parent paper, The New York Times.  Life couldn't have thrown a better blessing at this point in my career as a young professional and I am grateful for each day I've spent here.  Will I go into journalism?  I don't know yet.  But even if I don't, the experience will have been invaluable and another door's been opened.


  1. Hi Montana,

    I've really enjoyed reading your blog posts about your internship at the IHT. I'm an American living in Paris and interested in pursuing journalism. Can you give me any advice/tips/contacts for applying for the IHT internship next year? I've searched around on the internet but can't find any information.

    Thanks, and keep writing!

    1. Hey Kaylen! Thanks for your message and sorry it took me a week to respond! If you're still interested, send me an email at montana.gerry12@yahoo.co.uk and I'd be happy to answer any of your questions!

      Have a good week :)