Resiliency Lands International Journalism Student Karan Chaudhary an NPR Internship

By Nikia Burdick

International student Karan Chaudhary is from Gurgaon, India, where he lived before attending the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is now a senior at UMass, living in Washington D.C., where he interns at National Public Radio (NPR). He started as an intern with NPR’s Morning Edition, before becoming a content operations intern. 

However, landing this NPR internship wasn’t easy. As an international student, Chaudhary needed to get a sponsor to participate in an internship and be paid. This came with challenges because he also needed a sponsor for future visas. 

“It’s already difficult when you’re competing against the best applicants in the entire country for an internship, but the moment you indicate that you need a sponsor, it adds a lot more layers to the process,” Chaudhary said. “I’ve probably filled out nearly 400 applications before landing an internship with NPR.”

Chaudhary started at UMass as a political science major but always had an interest in international relations.

“I took a class with Congressman Richard Neal and realized that every student in the class was a journalism major except for me,” he explained. “I could see how these students observed the world and how the class prepared them to be curious. They seemed to absorb things in a different manner than I did.” 

Then in the Fall of 2019, following a heartfelt talk with Congressman Neal after class one day, Chaudhary decided to declare journalism his major and make political science his minor.

He credits each professor and journalism advisor in the Journalism Department for molding him into the curious person he is today. 

“I was mentored in a way that helped me be myself and to believe that my voice matters. There’s no story that’s too big or too small. If you are curious and have the drive to get it published, you will succeed. One article matters, no matter where it’s published,” Chaudhary said. 

His philosophy is to stay flexible, adaptable and curious. He seeks to learn and grow every day. Now after four years at UMass, exploring and pushing his boundaries is something Chaudhary has made his strength.

While looking for an internship, Chaudhary sent out his cover letter and resume repeatedly, but was constantly rejected. Although he could have easily given up, he chose to keep reaching for his goal.

He recalls sitting in a hotel room in Austin, Texas looking up at the stars from the window one evening when he decided to apply to NPR. “Then my life took a U-turn a few weeks later when I received an email requesting an interview with NPR. After that, my life changed, and I got an interview and a sponsorship within one week,” Chaudhary said.

Finally, in October 2022, Chaudhary began his internship with NPR’s Morning Edition, where he pitched stories and wrote returns for the lighter part of the show. These returns are the fun facts in a show and can be about anything. Chaudhary was tasked with researching and scripting them. Here’s an example related to the new Tom Cruise Mission Impossible movie.

“There are two returns every day. Each 30-second segment is a chance to pack the show with humor while still being informative,” Chaudhary said.

He is very proud of a piece that aired about the last Boeing 747, a large long-range, wide-body airliner. “Millions of people had to bear my voice,” Chaudhary exclaimed. Experts in aviation were needed for this piece, so Chaudhary enlisted his parents, Deepa and Rohit Chaudhary, because they are both pilots. 

“When I called them, it was midnight in India, so they just wanted to go back to sleep. But before they did, they said yes, and just like that they were booked,” he said.

He pitched and booked another piece about NASA’s Artemis mission with astronaut Christina Koch, and was thrilled when it aired on an NPR Morning Edition radio segment. This comes to mind for Chaudhary because Koch will be one of four astronauts to take a trip around the moon next year.

“It was one of the first stories I ever pitched. It was surreal picking up the phone and saying, ‘Hi, this is Karan from NPR’s Morning Edition,’ all while thinking ‘Wow, I’m calling NASA.’ It felt awesome to get her on the show,” he said. “It was amazing stuff, and I got to do it every day.”

Chaudhary describes NPR as being one big family where everyone learns from each other and supports each other’s ideas. He pitched, scripted, and booked several shows during those first four months before moving to the Content Operations team.

“Content operations is the backbone of NPR, where we focus on production and programming. It’s essentially anything that is going in or out, from broadcast recordings, equipment requests, studio bookings, to how we coordinate with ABC News and other news outlets to get news feed locally, nationally and internationally,” he said.

In May 2023, he will graduate from UMass with a bachelor's degree in journalism. He is currently interviewing and hopes to land a job in the field soon. 

All the obstacles Chaudhary faced allowed him to develop his character. After taking a moment to reflect on this, he leaves a parting message for students to stay true to themselves. 

“You’re more than your story. Mirror yourself in your cover letter and be transparent in your application. Take a leap of faith, but always be prepared to fail,” he said. “Be so prepared to fail that you don’t fear it anymore.”

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