Journalism student crafts multifaceted internship experience in France

June 02, 2021

(Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of stories about Bellisario College students completing summer internships.)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — There’s a not-so-secret route to success for many students in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications and Sébastien Kraft knows it well.

Kraft asks questions and persists. He’s assertive, seeks out opportunities and relentlessly networks — making connections with alumni, faculty, staff and communications professionals at every possible turn.

That approach has helped the journalism major, who has an interest in documentary filmmaking, to earn a spot in Penn State’s Presidential Leadership Academy, work on the award-winning, student-produced “Centre County Report” TV newscast in the Bellisario College, and qualify for the highly competitive Penn State Hollywood Program.

This summer, he’s completing an internship in France — one he found as the result of curiosity and networking — while hopefully positioning himself for a potential internship with CNN in Paris this fall. He’s also working on a documentary film for Penn State’s John Curley Center for Sports Journalism and pursuing his dream of playing baseball. (He’s a pitcher for the Paris Université Club, which will begin its 16-game season June 12 in French Division 1.)

Yes, all that. He spends his down time binging “The West Wing.”

“The internship is only part time, but it’s good to be busy with all of those things. In general, I try not to let things linger, like dishes in the sink or little things that just need to be done. That’s my approach,” he said. “At the same time, it’s important to create some down time for yourself and enjoy it. So far, I’ve been able to do that.”

Kraft, 20, who was born in France and has dual citizenship there and in the United States, is spending most of his summer assisting author and New York Times contributor Elaine Sciolino, who is also the Times’ former Paris bureau chief, on a book project. He’s been conducting research and transcribing interviews in English and French. He’s also been filming and editing videos to complement the project.

“There’s a lot of opportunity, and my approach was just to jump in,” Kraft said.

In addition to that work, Kraft, a political science minor, has a week in late June set aside for a trip to Senegal where he’ll meet Mauritanian leader Biram Dah Abeid, an anti-slavery advocate who has been called by some “the Mauritanian Nelson Mandela.” Dah Abeid, who received the 2013 United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights, was listed by Time Magazine as one of “the 100 Most Influential People” and by PeaceLinkLive as one of the 10 most influential but comparatively unknown people who have changed the world.

Kraft’s interview and meeting are part of a documentary for his Schreyer Honors College thesis. He’s making the trip to Senegal with his 74-year-old aunt, an Amnesty International volunteer who lives in France. Kraft and Dah Abeid first connected via Zoom in August 2020.

Kraft has previously produced films about the refugee crisis in France (“Shades of Light,” which won several film festival awards), international students adapting at Penn State (“Vis-à-Vis”), and the U.S. handball team (“Miracle on the Court”).

Last fall, Kraft, who grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland, completed a five-month in-person internship with France 2, the nation’s news network, in its Washington, D.C., bureau — also known as France TV Washington.

If his master plan plays out, Kraft might not return to the University Park campus until commencement next spring. If he can stay in France through the fall, he would then move to Hollywood to complete the Penn State Hollywood Program in the spring. He was scheduled to participate this past spring and was able to defer his participation when the effort was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s tough to think of it that way, but I guess maybe I will not get back until then. Hopefully that’s the case,” Kraft said. “When I arrived at Penn State it was all about wanting to be on camera, being the leader of a show and projecting leadership. What I’ve learned is that leadership in journalism is letting yourself go with where a story takes you.

“There are times you’re just dying to make a story happen and eventually realize that you have to let it happen. It’s kind of like my college experience overall. You do your best, but there are going to be disappointments. You just learn from them, get better and keep moving forward.”

  • Sebastien Kraft baseball

    Along with his internship, Sébastien Kraft is playing baseball in France this summer.

    IMAGE: Photo Provided
  • Sebastien Kraft interview

    After a Zoom meeting last August, Kraft plans to meet Biram Dah Abeid in person this summer for a documentary he's completing for his Schreyer Honors College thesis.

    IMAGE: Penn State
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Last Updated June 02, 2021