Magazine Feature / People

Internship lets DU student cover the world from Denver

Like many University of Denver students, Jessica Karpilo is hard at work in an internship program, building a resumé and amassing that precious “real world experience.”

But there’s a twist. She could do her entire internship and never leave her room on campus. It’s an online internship with the massive information, a New York Times subsidiary that says it attracts 60-million readers every month.

The 19-year-old sophomore from Florence, Colo., is pursuing a double major in geography and journalism. She says the adventure started with her lifelong dream of combining her love of geography with writing. Someday, if things go her way, she envisions writing those sweeping cover stories for National Geographic magazine that transport readers to the far reaches of the globe. But, she knew, she had to amass a resumé and prove herself at every step if she’s to get to that promised land.

“I was laying in bed thinking about what I want to do after graduation,” she says. “I know I’m going to look absolutely ridiculous if I graduate and go out there without a portfolio and examples of my writing.”

Karpilo started researching and found an article by geography expert Matt Rosenberg detailing the top 10 careers in geography today. An e-mail exchange later, she was turning a recent academic paper she had written into a story about sustainable development. Rosenberg asked for another sample of her work, a story on homelessness in Anchorage, Alaska.

She says she was elated when an offer for a winter/spring internship followed. She won’t get paid, but she is earning course credits and learning from the editing and guidance provided by Rosenberg, a published author with a master’s degree in geography. And getting published on what bills itself as one of the largest producers of original content on the Web couldn’t hurt, she notes.

Rosenberg, who’s based in Los Angeles but works for a company headquartered in New York, says that for a company that lives online, it only made sense to have interns who work online.

“I can’t imagine not having a global pool from which to select interns and contributing writers,” Rosenberg says. “It’s working wonderfully and I intend to continue it.”

Karpilo is just one of many writers working for around the world. Rosenberg says he’s currently hunting for a geographer based in India to help beef up coverage of that country.

Karpilo’s first article, on sustainable development, is already online. Lately, she’s been working on a story about the Vinland Map. Looking ahead, there is a whole world of topics she looks forward to exploring and explaining.

“One of the best things about is that it’s all for the non-expert,” she says. “So the challenge is that to write for a non-expert, you have to become an expert so you can explain it. You really learn about the topics.”

The sixth of eight children, Karpilo says she knew she wanted to be a writer since the third grade. And through a series of cross-country family road trips, she developed a love of exploration. The two, she says, are a great match.

The online aspect of her internship is one that fits perfectly with her schedule, she says. In addition to her double major, she is a resident assistant and is active in the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.

“With all that I’m doing, I don’t think I could take an internship right now that involved leaving campus,” she says. “But I can get that experience online. You’re not going into a building every day, sitting there with someone looking over your shoulder, so the opportunities are there, but it’s all up to you. You have to do the work on your own.”

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