Esther Castillejo walks out of the ABC New York headquarters at 4 a.m. Her adrenaline is pumping after an intense, but exciting day at work. She knows she wouldn’t sit still on the train, so she decides to walk home as the city that never sleeps bustles around her.
Castillejo, 22, is, historically, the youngest fellow ABC News has accepted into its fellowship program, a one-year full-time staff position at the network. Fellows rotate through different departments and, at the end of the year, are transitioned into a permanent role at the network.
“I really want to have my career grow within the company, because in the few months I’ve been there, I love it so much,” said the petite, dark-haired Venezuelan. “It’s a lot of work and it’s not glamorous work. It’s intense, but it’s so amazing.”
While working full-time, Castillejo also attends Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism part-time, pursuing her masters of science in journalism to be completed in 2017.
Castillejo graduated summa cum laude from Loyola University Chicago in May 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, Bachelor of Arts in international studies and a minor in anthropology.
She was editor-in-chief of the award-winning Loyola Phoenix, studied abroad at the John Felice Rome Center, and interned at CNN, Chicago Sun-Times, Time Out North America, Human Rights Watch and Better Government Association.
“Journalism is not a career you will learn in the classroom, you have to be out in the trenches, you really do,” Castillejo said.
She moved from her hometown of Maracaibo, Venezuela to pursue a career in journalism in the U.S., after ruling out her other choices of law or geophysical engineering.
“Being a journalist you need to know or learn a little bit of everything,” Castillejo said. “That really interested me. I’m that kind of person – I like everything, and journalism was this door that led to everything.”
She said 99 percent of her time is spent between work and school, but in her 1 percent of free time, “I run every morning. I read a lot and I really like walking. All of my hobbies are things that slow me down a little bit from the time pressure, fast-paced work and school. I need it. I would go insane if I didn’t,” she said.
Castillejo said she is excited for the future and knows she has found the right fit for her at ABC News.
“It’s a competitive business,” she said. “You have to work for what you want and you have to be proactive. One of my life mottos has always been: you never say no to an opportunity – never. Even if it means more work, even if it means change, even if it means a little bit of heartbreak at times, you never say no to an opportunity.”
“And you need to learn to work under pressure,” she said with a chuckle. “Once you master chaos, half of your job is already done.”
By Jessica Lodzinski