From Damascus to KLS, From KLS to NPR
As a child in Damascus, Syria, I didn’t grow up listening to NPR from the backseat of my parents’ car. In fact, I didn’t grow up listening to the radio at all. It wasn’t until I moved to the United States for college that I was introduced to “podcast culture.” Since that time, the podcast app on my phone became my constant companion during my commute from San Francisco to Berkeley. As a Media Studies and Journalism major in college, I learned and explored more with audio and production than any other medium. I knew my post-grad internship at Khan Lab School would be a perfect opportunity for me to share both my love and knowledge of podcasting with students.
I learned about KLS through a TED Radio Hour episode called “Rethinking School.” After I started my internship, I found many fellow public radio listeners within the KLS team. As part of my position as a Storytelling Intern, I decided to teach a workshop on podcasting. I found that many Middle and Upper Schoolers were curious to learn more about how a podcast is produced. Shows like TED Radio Hour, How I Built This, Planet Money, and WOW In The World were of great interest to the students. As a Guy Raz fan myself, I knew that the class was off to a great start.
We met once a week to learn more about how a story unfolds through audio, how to hook listeners, and how to produce an enticing audio podcast. I was able to learn a lot about the subject by preparing lessons for the students. All of the material we used and discussed was extracted from the NPR Training website.
Podcast topics students proposed included:
- What are different opinions on teaching?
- How does music integrate with fashion?
- How can our physical state affect our mental state?
- What is music theory?
The main takeaway from the class was the understanding that a great story is required to hook a listener, whether the podcast is three minutes or thirty minutes. We discussed the definition of a story and the different components that make a story unique and interesting. As a Storytelling Intern, this was a topic I cared deeply about. Furthermore, we learned that with the right ingredients, the production of an audio piece can come together easily to showcase and unfold a great story.
While working on this project at KLS, I applied for an internship at NPR and learned I would be working on How I Built This in the spring. In January, I moved to Washington, D.C. to start this new adventure. As an intern on the show, I get to help out with all aspects of production, including pitching guests and booking them. I also get to work on the How You Built That segment of the show, where I interview guests and get to produce the full segment. Additionally, I work on creating information packets for our host to quickly learn about the guest he will be speaking with, and I work on drafting and scheduling social media posts for Facebook and Twitter.
Since How I Built This comes out on Mondays, we have to get the episode ready by Friday night. It makes the end of the week a marathon, but it is very rewarding to finish everything and get the episode mixed down and ready to air. In my opinion, the best part of the job is working closely with the senior editors and producers who have been a part of NPR for years. Every day feels like a bootcamp, and I’m very thankful for all of it.
My internship at KLS allowed me to fully experience 9:00 to 5:00 work life for the first time, and I learned that I actually enjoy it, since I get to work with such a great team while doing something that I love. I also enjoyed the production aspect of the job, just like I do at NPR; after spending so many years learning through theory and research, I am so happy to finally put something together myself.
For any students interested in a career path in production or journalism, I would highly recommend that you start practicing! Put a short audio piece together as a passion project, start a club at your school – or get an internship for the summer.
Nour Coudsi was born and raised in Damascus, Syria. At the end of her first year of college, she moved to San Francisco due to the political unrest in her country. She graduated from U.C. Berkeley in 2017 with a major in Media Studies and a minor in Journalism, and she interned at Khan Lab School in the fall of 2017.
Nour has worked with refugee students in Lebanon, Turkey, London, and Greece, where she holds photography, language, and storytelling workshops. She believes in empowering the next generation of refugee students through the creation of safe, nontraditional learning spaces.