Twloha Internship Experience Essay

Taking Chances: My Experience as a TWLOHA Intern

By Elizabeth Wilder

109 days. 7 people. 1 tiny beach town in Florida. That’s all it took to change my life.

I’m writing this from California. If you would have told me a year ago that I would be sitting here today across from someone who lives 2,286 miles away from me, I wouldn’t believe you. I would laugh and doubt and dream that something like that could even be possible. But being a To Write Love on Her Arms intern allowed me this opportunity and so many more, each incredibly beautiful and impossible to foresee.

Rewind to last year: I was a broken person pretending not to be broken. I needed purpose. I needed a reason to wake up every morning and say, “Hell yeah, I can do this.” TWLOHA had always been in the back of my head, but it became ever-present when I began to struggle. So last summer, I decided to apply for TWLOHA’s internship program.

And I was waitlisted.

I felt defeated, but I wasn’t destroyed. I convinced myself it wasn’t meant to be, that it just wasn’t the right time.

Later that year I caught wind that Jamie Tworkowski would be speaking at our local college, and I decided to go at the last minute. Afterward I got to meet and talk with him. I told him I had applied for the internship again, but that was a lie. I had no intention of applying again. But I had just lied to the founder of TWLOHA! I went home, rushed through the application and video process, and hoped for the best.

I was waitlisted. Again.

I was angry, confused, and officially done.

But then a week later I received an e-mail saying that a spot had opened up. And they wanted me.

In January, I uprooted my life in Kentucky and moved to the small town of Melbourne, Florida, to live and work with six complete strangers. Walking into the Intern House for the first time was equal parts nerve-wracking and exciting. I was welcomed with hugs and hellos and a love I had never felt before. I can tell you this with confidence: throwing seven 20-somethings together creates a beautiful chaos. There were late-night patio talks, countless sunsets, trivia on Monday nights, laughs shared, tears shed, and Wednesday morning breakfasts with the guys. You would have thought we had known each other forever.

There were also endless days at the TWLOHA office working alongside the incredibly humble and hilarious staff. We answered messages from supporters, packed merchandise orders, and prepared for events like our 10-year anniversary and annual Run For It 5k. There was never a dull moment, and there was always an air of excitement, a sense that you belonged and you were worthy of being a part of the team.

Needless to say, heavy came along with the light. There were days of questioning whether or not I really deserved to be there. There were days where depression hit too hard and tensions ran high within the house. I had to adapt and learn to step back and gain perspective. I had to breathe and allow myself grace. I had to allow others grace, no matter how difficult it was. All seven of us were there for the same reason: to spread a message of hope and help. Gaining that perspective allowed me to combat the dark and allow the light back in. Those six other people were there to pick me back up, to show me kindness, and to be a part of me for the rest of my life. I was so lucky.

I am still so lucky.

If you are looking for a sign, this is it. Step out of your comfort zone and take a chance on yourself. Apply for the internship program, and if you get waitlisted the first time, apply again.

After all…

I’m writing this from California. Next to one of my best friends. Because of TWLOHA, I now have best friends from California, Texas, South Carolina, New York, and Canada. You won’t know what friendships are waiting to happen or what memories are yet to be made unless you take a chance.

Take a chance on the program. Take a chance on yourself.

Apply to be a TWLOHA intern here. 

Topics: depression

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You Asked. The TWLOHA Interns Answered. Part 5 of 5

By TWLOHA Interns

Do you have any advice for the application video? 

Be yourself! Talking in the video can feel super awkward, but don’t write lines to memorize or anything like that. Just try to relax and speak from your heart. 

– Allie, Fall 2014 

Don’t stress! You don’t need to act a certain way. This is your time to share what’s important to you and why TWLOHA is a part of your life. Don’t worry about trying to fit a certain mold. 

– Erin, Summer 2014

Be yourself. It’s tempting to make yourself look perfect in those five short minutes, but don’t. Be authentic. Whatever you have to offer to the team, offer it.

– Brandi, Fall 2013 

Don’t search YouTube for example videos. We value what you have to say. The video does not have to be some major production. We just want you to be yourself. Pretend you are having a one-on-one conversation with us. No stress: We’re great listeners.

– Ryan, Summer 2014 Intern 

You are a unique person, and your application should reflect that. Nobody in this world has ever been as “you” as you are. Don’t lose yourself behind the things you think you’re supposed to say. Honesty and sincerity will get you so far in life, and they should absolutely be present in your application video.  

– Rachel, Fall 2014 

What would you say is the best piece of advice for someone applying to be an intern at TWLOHA?

Be honest. Don’t just say what you think TWLOHA wants to hear. They are working hard to build a great team of interns that mesh well, and that can only happen if are true to who you are.

– Rebecca, Summer 2013

Drop all of your expectations at the door. TWLOHA will be like nothing you could ever imagine. You will be challenged and changed in ways you can’t fathom. Go in with an open heart and mind and be willing to do whatever is asked of you. Even the most mundane tasks are critical in an organization like TWLOHA, especially when such a small staff runs it.

– Brandi, Fall 2013 

Be patient, both with yourself and with the process. You’re going to want to give yourself enough time to do the application so that you can answer in a way that best represents who you are. The decision process at TWLOHA is also quite involved, so don’t get discouraged if it takes a while to hear back. Take a deep breath and trust the process.

– Kayla, Spring 2014  

Use a writing sample about a topic that really means something to you; your passion and dedication will shine through. 

– Allie, Fall 2014 

My biggest piece of advice is to try and ensure you are in a good place personally. The internship is so rewarding, but it can be challenging at times. You are just as important as the people TWLOHA helps, and there’s no rush. Be honest with where you’re at when you apply. Take your time, learn new coping mechanisms, and work on things you need to work on, and the experience will be that much better because of it. 

– Marie, Spring 2013  

Do not stress out about the application. Take the process one step at a time. The whole application can be completed in a few hours, so please do not think it is a long, drawn-out process. Also, do not keep yourself from applying because you think everyone else is. Everyone is probably thinking exactly that. As you fill out the questions, just be yourself. Everyone at TWLOHA is different, and that is what keeps us unique. We need people just like you. So please, just be you.

– Ryan, Summer 2014 

Be able to put your heart into the application because that allows the TWLOHA team to see who you are and how you can contribute to the team dynamic. Also, don’t be afraid to share your story throughout the process.

– Jeniffer, Summer 2014 

Don’t spend too much time trying to build yourself up on paper or in your video. Be yourself and be honest about what you have to offer. Don’t focus on what you think TWLOHA wants to hear from you; focus on being who you are because that is what is important. 

– Phil, Summer 2014 

Be fully honest in your application and trust the people making decisions. They’re good at their jobs and have a knack for knowing what kind of stuff will be good for you. The quality of their care is directly related to how willing you are to being open and honest.

– Matt, Spring 2013  

Research. Make sure you understand the details of the application and the process that comes after it. Do not just answer the questions but understand their importance. Really try to analyze the possibility of being chosen to become an intern and what responsibility will come with the position. 

– Lydia, Fall 2014 

Confidence. I worried my way through every step of the application process. I was convinced that every answer I wrote was a mistake and that my interview was awful. This internship should be something you care a great deal about, but don’t let it be a source of overwhelming stress for you either. Your emotional investment should be a healthy one.

– Kenneth, Fall 2014 

Allow your community to be with you throughout the whole process. Share your excitement and nervousness with your family and friends. Sit down with your mentors and ask them for feedback and to practice interviewing with you. Allow people to be there with you. It will make the whole thing easier. 

– Molly, Fall 2014 

Once you have sent in the application: Sleep. Eat. Take a lot of deep breaths. You’re going to put plenty of work into all of this and sending it out is going to be a big moment, but once you’ve done that, it’s out of your hands. It’s OK to go about your life and do stuff while you’re waiting to know the results.

– Rachel, Fall 2014 

If it is meant to be, it’ll all work out. After you apply, don’t stress about it too much. Try not to overthink it all. Take care of yourself and your own mental health through it all. 

– Laura, Fall 2014

Don’t be scared and don’t be nervous. Just keep an open mind and go for it!

– Alicia, Summer 2014

***

Want to learn more about interning at TWLOHA? You can see what our interns are up to by searching #TWLOHAInterns on Instagram and Twitter. To apply for our Summer 2015 term, click here. 

Topics: recovery

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