Lessons Learned at “Parenting Magazine”

Aleida Fernandez

Before I started my internship at Parenting Magazine’s headquarters in Orlando, Fla., I imagined my experience would be like “The Devil Wears Prada.” In my imagination, I was going to be like Anne Hathaway’s character: running around the streets of Orlando (looking fabulous, of course), getting coffee and unpublished versions of the third book of the “Matched” series by Ally Condie. In the end, I would help contribute something––I didn’t know what––to the magazine that was so revolutionary that I would really gain the notice of my bosses. So when I showed up to the office in my best Anne-Hathaway-after-her-glamorous-transformation outfit, I was prepared to learn some great lesson about magazines and life, all without a hair out of place.

As it turns out, magazine life was not nearly as sensational as the movies made it out to be. The office was more “Office Space”––albeit with happier workers––and less “The Devil Wears Prada.” And while I did learn some major life lessons during my time at Parenting, they were not the ones I had initially expected.

When I first packed for my internship, I brought a suitcase full of clothes for the glamorous movie life I was going to live this summer. In it, I had clothes for nearly every occasion: work, weekend, exercise, clubbing. But for the first month of my internship, I lived 25 miles away from work, and with the Orlando traffic, every commute took an hour. The driving was crowded and aggressive and to top it off, it rained––no, poured––nearly every afternoon. Road rage, something I had never experienced before this summer, became a common occurrence. Every night I came home exhausted from staring at a screen and running around getting mail. Within my first two weeks, my suitcase filled with clothes went nearly untouched as I switched between my work clothes and my yoga pants (not to exercise in, but to watch “The Daily Show” in). The glamorous summer life I had imagined for myself quickly vanished as it became pretty apparent to me that the real world is unlike the glamorous world of the movies.

I knew that the world was a diverse place and that not everyone had grown up in my middle-class, small-city, liberal upbringing and yet, having lived in a Northwest bubble my entire life, I went into my internship fairly optimistic that most other people would have the same general mentality. As a true Northwesterner, I grew up drinking good coffee and recently became a vegetarian. But very quickly, Orlando seemed much farther away than 3,000 miles when it came to mentality. While back home there were literally two Starbucks on the same block, in Orlando I had to go on a treasure hunt for my Seattle-brewed coffee or face drinking Folgers for two months. When I told people I was a vegetarian, I received, “Good luck with that.” And yet, despite our differences when it came to coffee and meat, I really enjoyed the people I met. Their different opinions and outlooks on life challenged my own and helped me realize that while I love almost everything about the Northwest, having diversity in opinions wasn’t so bad.

The one thing that ended up being exactly as I expected was my actual internship. As an intern, I went through three different production rotations–– editorial, design and photo––and in each rotation I learned the ins and outs of that specific production and assisted the editors with anything they needed. Before I started my internship, I imagined myself making great connections with the editors and creating something unlike anything they’d ever seen before. By the end of the internship, I still had not contributed anything revolutionary, but my other dreams had become true. I was able to work closely with the Style and Editorial Directors. With the Style Director I helped pick out clothes for the fashion spreads (look for Celeb Style in October!), helped pen a fashion advice article and worked on three photo shoots where I acted as professional dresser/babysitter. With the Editorial Director, I helped pioneer the new social media system and learned ––finally!––how to use the Twitter. In two months I understood the magazine business intimately and saw that people in the magazine business actually love working there. As it turns out, the business is slightly more “Devil Wears Prada” than “Office Space.”

So after a huge real world shock, my summer ended up being less of a hit movie and more like a version of MTV’s “True Life: I’m a Poor Intern at a National Magazine.” But when I watched the movie again at the end of my internship, it turned out I had a lot more in common with Anne Hathaway’s character than I’d originally thought. Unlike her, I didn’t end up looking fabulous at every turn, but, like her, I learned a lot about the working world and about myself. I learned a lot about the real world, and in the end, I realized that sometimes the real thing is better than the movies.