This post was written by Annie Leroux.
I have wanted to apply for the STA World Traveler Internship for three years, but my timing was never right, until 2010. And when the application process commenced, my wall soon covered in post-it notes full of my constantly evolving ideas. I didn’t sleep for days. After submitting my application and video, I plastered my page link all over every social media network, spent hours watching other applicant’s videos, and couldn't stop telling perfect strangers in coffee shops about what I was after.
I immersed myself in the process and began to eat, sleep, breathe STA.
Coming Within Reach
When my nerves got the best of me the morning of the Top 20 Announcement - so much so that I missed the call from STA - I knew how badly I wanted it.
One week later, I was doing my STA interview from a hotel room in the middle of a very exciting national public speaking tournament. I tried to anticipate possible questions they would ask, but nothing could have prepared me for the clever and hilarity of STA's queries. I went on to finish nationals, and while sitting in the airport a couple days later, that same Texas phone number called.
I picked up thinking there was an extra piece of information they needed from me. Instead, Patrick told me I was a finalist.
Top Ten was, by far, the scariest place to be: too close to winning, so close to being possible. I noticed there were seven girls total, and I kept thinking, "Only six people stand between me and my dream job...going on a trip around the world...an opportunity that could launch my career."
What I wasn't thinking about at the time were the six other girls thinking the same thing.
Once the finalist video had been filmed and edited, my application complete, I waited. For the first time in this entire process, there was nothing further I could do.
The Door Doesn't Open
The day of the winner announcement, I was so nervous I left class early and went for some therapeutic Greek food. When the call came through, I felt defeated.
It was hard to hear, via a phone call, that I didn't get my dream job.
When you become a finalist out of hundreds, it's easy to feel like it was all just within reach - that soon everything was going to change. Although I was disappointed, it didn’t take long to get excited for Natalie and Casey and snap back to figuring out my new summer plan.
Honestly, any one of the finalists could have done an amazing job, and even if all ten of us were a perfect fit, eight had to be eliminated. That's just how it is.
A couple hours after the news broke, I hopped on a flight to San Francisco and applied for seven different internships. I just didn’t see the point in being upset while I still felt on top of the world for even being a part of the process. If the internship is something I really want, I can always apply again.
Amidst a Sea of Greats
At one point in the beginning, I was so intimidated by everyone else’s application videos that I considered not applying. Nearly everyone was a world traveler, had strong video editing skills, kept multiple blogs, was a photographer, showed extreme creativity, and had an entertaining personality.
It seemed difficult to stand out in a pool of people so qualified, and I almost completely changed my video to match what I thought others were doing.
Of course, my best chance at standing out was by being myself, as cliché as that sounds. Looking back at the second video I began editing, I never would have made it through had I submitted it.
Baby Stepping to Extraordinary
I've learned you don't have to wait around for these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to come around in order to live out your passion. All the people I admire - follow online, read about, or have spoken to - touch on the fact that they never could have anticipated the success they have today when they first started out. It was all about small steps - tiny successes.
And small steps are definitely difficult to fathom when internships, like STA's, offer giant leaps. Missing opportunities like these doesn't mean I have to go back to "the norm." Much of the success these other travelers, filmmakers, writers and bloggers are seeing wasn't handed to them in one summer, and while these opportunities do help in skipping a few steps, it isn't the only way to reach the dream.
Thinking that the STA internship is the only catalyst to reaching a successful travel career doesn't give us applicants much credit.
You don’t have to win the World Traveler Internship to benefit from it. Simply applying automatically makes you part of a large community of like-minded travel-obsessed writers, photographers, and filmmakers that could turn into future travel partners and inspirations. It's a very unique process and only those who apply completely understand.
You don’t have to win to be inspired by it. You don’t have to win to travel.
I feel like a better version of myself after applying. Now I can figure out what comes next; sometimes that's the hardest part.
Take a Baby Step
Follow Footsteps: Write to people you admire, who are in positions you hope to be in someday, and ask for a moment of their time to learn from them. You'd be surprised how much time many are willing to offer. They remember what it was like; everyone had to start somewhere.
Step Up Your "Business": Take all of your social media networks to the next level with a more business-like approach to their futures. Write out what you want to accomplish and figure out how to utilize those networks to market yourself and your talents in order to get what you want. Even just putting yourself and your ideas out there gives you more of an opportunity to build professional and personal connections.
Take Dynamic Steps: Put your own personality into your resume, cover letters and interviews. This internship was good practice in standing out creatively and taught me new ways of marketing myself through multi-media including writing, photography, video and music. Many applicants are qualified and creative, but knowing how to communicate that in in a three minute time period is steadily becoming a useful skill. Figure out how you would like to market yourself, and once you put together something you're proud of, apply, apply, apply.
Bravery Trumps Hard-To-Get
The strong work ethic a person must have to even apply for the World Traveler's Internship is already miles above the average twenty-something applying to regular jobs and internships, and clearly, if you're willing to dedicate that kind of time and heart to the WTI, you can use that vigor to go after anything you want.
Putting yourself and your passions in the public eye for a desired goal is brave; don't stop being that brave because the one opportunity that called for it didn't work out. When you have an undeniable passion for travel, writing, photography, or film, it is highly possible to succeed. It just takes time.
I am still writing to and networking with people who inspire me, and the more involved I get in this travel world, the more doors seem to open. Just the way I immersed myself in the internship, I have immersed myself in this industry that I hope will soon cradle my career.
My small successes are stacking up: increased blog views, being Twitter-listed as a "travel conversationalist," and being chosen to research and work on a local social media conference. I have come a long way, and although I don't have it all figured out, I have found a role in being a good resource to others who are on this same route.
The previous interns have continuously expressed to me how much this internship has changed their lives, and even though I was not chosen, I can confidently say I feel the same way.