When I walked inside the Grove Sun office on my first day, Kaylea marched me right back outside to take a picture.

I stood, as naturally as I could, outside the office and smiled, trying not to think about the cars driving past on Third Street, or how I probably should have put some makeup on and/or fixed my hair.

She had me answer some questions about my personality and career goals, and before I knew it, my picture was plastered in The Grove Sun and The Delaware County Journal.

One of the questions was “What are you most looking forward to with your internship?”

I had answered, “I’m mostly excited about getting to know the people of Grove,” because that’s what you’re supposed to say.

Life is supposed to be about people and relationships, but I wasn’t feeling very social. I was alone in a town I had never even visited, three hours away from family, and any friends I had nearby were away at summer camps.

If I had said what I was actually looking forward to, then it probably would have come across as superficial.

I wanted to live the “Grand Lake life”—boats, Jet Skis, sun. I pictured myself spending my days on the water, gettin’ tan and meetin’ a cute boy to live the lake life with.

I thought most people in Grove were rich and retired; living frivolous lives in vacation homes and on big boats. I didn’t expect anyone to care about who I was or what I was doing— I was just the newspaper and just an intern.

But that’s not how it went.

It’s as if the people of Grove reached out and grabbed me and pulled me into their family.

People I didn’t know waved at me on the road, and people I had just met offered me free cookies, T-shirts, inflatable banana chairs and asked me about my life and how I’m liking living in Grove—genuinely caring about my response.

Once at church, someone asked me, “So, do you have friends around here?” I laughed and said no. Later, I realized that I felt like I had a ton of friends in Grove because of all the nice people I met through stories.

Being here this summer was a sacrifice. I’m from a tight-knit family, and my older and only sister is getting married in August.

As the maid of honor, I was absent from her wedding planning and missed all of the moments I should have been there for: when she found her dress, picked her shoes, planned flower arrangements and decorations, etc.

I missed the last summer my family will ever have as our regular family, just us. No sons-in-law or daughters-in-law.  

As much as the situation pained me, I believe it was worth it. I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone more than I thought I would be and I have a newfound boldness in approaching stories. 

I’m able to be more patient and understanding while listening to people tell their stories, and I have a stronger drive to retell them accurately.

I learned to balance stories upon stories, and to drop everything and rush out the door when my editor tells me to go cover something.

Most importantly, I learned people truly do care about the media, whether they will admit it, and will almost always be on your side if you’re telling human stories and striving for the truth.

My short eight weeks here was worth it because of the people I met, and now I can truly say that getting to know the people is what I look forward to the most in my career.