The love affair between Helen Zook and New York City began last year, as many love affairs do, in a crappy first floor apartment. A layer of grime stubbornly clung to every surface, no matter how much she cleaned. Garbage cans sat just outside her bedroom window, and at night she could hear people sifting through the trash. After a month, all of her friends moved out, leaving her to fend for herself in a long-term hotel in a different part of town.
"It wasn't good either," she said.
Zook knows cities. She is a native of Arlington, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. She goes to school in Chicago, and she studied abroad in London the fall of her junior year. She calls New York polarizing. You tend know pretty quickly whether or not you want to be there—like an instinct, she said. And despite all that happened last year, Zook knew she wanted to come back.
Zook is once again in the Big Apple—this time as an ASME intern for Travel + Leisure. The people-watching, the freedom to wander, and the vibrant creativity of the city from its food to its fashion to its lifestyle drew her in.
“I would live in a cardboard box to live here,” she said. “Which I probably will be doing when I start.”
Zook, a natural creative, is drawn to magazines for many of the same reasons she is drawn to New York. She loves going to concerts (they combine travel and live music, two of her favorite things). She reads. She draws, too, though she hasn't for a while. But while she is an avid reader, it wasn't the writing that inspired her as much as a magazine’s singular ability to embody all the things she loved—namely culture, travel, and fashion. A rising college senior, she is print editor for Stich, the fashion magazine at Northwestern University.
She’s also a celebrity junkie. “Embarrassingly, I know everything about every celebrity,” she said. Her first internship was in New York with Celebuzz, an online celebrity news outlet. While there, she interviewed Victoria’s Secret models—including Behati Prinsloo, now wife of Adam Levine—during a press junket while wearing a surgical boot for her broken big toe.
But above all, Zook wants to be an editor. Managing teams, setting up photo shoots, and working in the fashion closets—she wants to do it all. She looks up to Cindi Leive, award-winning Editor-in-Chief of GLAMOUR, as an example.
Right now, Zook is taking advantage of her time at Travel + Leisure, her first magazine internship, to learn the ins and outs of the industry. She dreams about vacations, since she gets to “look at pretty hotels all day,” but she’s also been busy. “I've been able to do just about everything,” she said, including serve as assistant to the Editor-in-Chief for a week.
But you won’t see Zook getting caught up on the hype, not even about herself.
“I feel like I've met a lot of people who take themselves too seriously,” she said. “I've never really respected that kind of quality in a person.”
Zook has the same modest aim as many other soon-to-be college seniors: learning to survive in the real world post-graduation.
“Getting a job in fashion journalism that supports me somewhat,” she said, laughing. “That is my main goal.”
--Written by Kathryn Moody, Indiana University, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
-- Edited by Emma Weissmann, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, National Geographic Magazine