For a period in my life I was obsessed with New York. I was also obsessed with the idea of being a magazine journalist.
So when I was working at summer camp, in Connecticut, and one of my co counsellors, Evan, casually revealed his dad owned a magazine company in the Big Apple, I demanded his phone number.
I was 21, fresh out of university, just doing some travelling and exploring for nine months before I started my postgraduate in Magazine Journalism at Harlow College in the February. This contact was an absolute dream come true.
My ticket to the Devil Wears Prada, but better, surely?
I phoned him
Honestly, waiting for the call back was one of the most excited I’ve ever been in my whole life.
I can picture it now, being on the phone at the camp reception with his people asking me if I’d like to come for two week’s work experience.
The butterflies of excitement when it was confirmed via email that week made me feel sick. I was going to be working on a magazine in the USA. The US of A!
Turns out the magazine wasn’t quite so much in New York, as in Stamford, Connecticut. But details. This was still my big break. I was going to show the
New York Connecticut magazine business just how good I was, and obviously get a job and then move to NYC. And it was going to be the best thing ever.
I just had the rest of camp, then six weeks in Australia to get through and I’d be there, over my 22nd birthday at the beginning of October. Dreamy.
‘First day of the rest of my life’
So, day before my first day I arrive into Stamford, fresh from Sydney. I check into the Stamford YHA, my only affordable option, and go to check out the office and my route. I basically had to scramble through people’s perfectly kept white picket fence gardens to get there, seeing as no one walks in the US and pavements were apparently unheard of in that part of Stamford. No pavements would be ruining the perfect Stepford Wife aesthetic here.
The magazine office looked nice, not exactly the cosmopolitan vibe I’d imagined. More Matalan-business-park than NYC-best-magazine-ever. But still.
The magazine turned out to be a kids publication – the now defunct Weekly Reader – that had been handed out in schools for the last 100 years.
I mean honestly, Evan had told me it was some big US magazine. Who was I to actually look up what it was. What am I? A journalist?
First day and I was ushered into an office to research hayfever symptoms. I’d already covered this during work experience that Easter break at the Newcastle Evening Chronicle where I was the proud producer of a double page spread on the topic. It seemed to be my only task for the day though, so I dutifully read through papers online, and the most recent thoughts on the subject putting together my research for the writers. Stay indoors, check the pollen count, blah blah etc.
This was not what Carrie Bradshaw’s protégé should be doing.
I asked for more work. I got no response. I sat awkwardly trying to look busy, like only someone on work experience knows how.
Hayfever world expert
And then a Tuesday of hayfever research passed, while no one was interested in me. Just slight confusion as to why a Brit would come all the way here, for work experience.
They did take me for lunch – as the big boss’ son’s friend – we drove what would’ve been a five-minute walk round the corner to a deli. Awkward, stilted conversation ensued.
“Yeah, no, I hadn’t heard of the magazine before.”
“Errrm, no, not sure. Don’t think we have anything similar in England”.
That kind of thing.
Then I did something cool
Thursday and I got to go out to high flying super-rich Connecticut suburbia. The houses were huge. We were shooting a spread for the magazine on kids cooking. The ‘sweet’ kids licked all the utensils and bowls, climbed up the table, stuck their greasy little fingers in everything, while it was shot as ‘just good fun’ for the mag.
I was glad to get out of there. Nice house though.
Then I was fired
Friday and they wanted to see my work visa.
“Errr, work visa?”
And that was that. Apparently Weekly Reader paid all their workies and they couldn’t pay me without a work visa so off I went with $100 of Barnes and Noble vouchers. Booted out the office that minute.
My short lived ‘New York Magazine’ career was in tatters.
So I flew home.