Talking to strangers

By: Christina Lee
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Before I can delve into my internship experience, I must establish this: I’m afraid of talking to strangers. I’m also an incoming senior at Vista del Lago High School, the youngest of four, always tired and fortunate to intern with the Folsom Telegraph.

Each summer, my school offers a preceptorship program where students can apply for an internship opportunity with businesses across the city. A good majority of the students this year are interning with Kaiser Permanente, but Addie McBee and I have the pleasure of working with Rachel Zirin, the senior reporter at the Folsom Telegraph, who is the best mentor anyone could ask for.

I’ve confused myself (and many others) by choosing to intern for a journalism career, a branch of a larger communications field that requires - surprise - communicating.

Ever since my preschool days, peers have called me shy, quiet or more recently, intimidating because I don’t talk as much as other people.

I promise I’m not stuck-up, disinterested or hostile - sometimes I just want to go to bed for a day after holding a 30-second conversation with anyone.

I’d like my peers to know that I’m probably more scared of them as they are of me. I’d like people to know that I have my sister order for me at restaurants when I’m feeling particularly anxious that day. I’d like my teachers to know that I don’t bother raising my hand in class anymore because the mere thought of speaking in front of 30 people depletes my mental energy.

However, I love to write. What I can’t and don’t say in words, I write down. As author Sandra Cisneros said, “I put it down on paper and then the ghost does not ache so much.”

Ever since I was 6 years old, I dreamed of having my writing published. I’ve looked at magazines and wondered how people get their words on a glossy page. I’ve seen newspapers and thought about how nice it would be to earn money to write. I had felt a rush of excitement seeing my first article on the school’s online newspaper receive views, although they were probably all mine.

Maybe journalism is the right path for me, maybe it’s not. However, I do know that despite my inhibitions, I have successfully conducted multiple interviews and saw my first article published in the paper, things I would have never imagined myself achieving.

Why am I afraid of talking to strangers? It’s the same reason I’m afraid of large spiders, fast cars, and deep water. The fear is a part of who I am, something that I’ve molded my whole lifestyle around. (I sleep in a different room whenever I see a spider in my bedroom.)

Sometimes the qualities that one holds can be detrimental, but they help to become motivation, to shape one’s path in the direction of improvement. Life without a goal would be dull anyhow.

It’s comforting to know that I have a supportive mentor and fellow intern, and it’s reassuring to know that social phobias are some of the most common fears. The next time I freak out over having to talk to strangers, I’ll consider how intimidating it must be for them to have a random teenager come up and put them on the spot.

Christina Lee is an intern with the Folsom Telegraph and can be reached at