Recollections of a National Geographic Maps Intern


Harry Bergmann and Kayla Surrey, NG Maps’ Research and Editorial Interns (Fall 2011), editing the Society’s new map of Southeast Asia.

My name is Harry Bergmann, a senior at the George Washington University majoring in geography and philosophy. I have dreamed about working at National Geographic for as long as I can remember. After a string of emails with Juan José Valdés—The Geographer (talk about reading an intimidating e-mail signature), and an interview (for which I was later informed I was far overdressed—I was wearing a tie)—I began my internship in September 2011. This is a brief recounting of my time spent in National Geographic Maps as a cartographic research and editorial intern.

Everything started out seemingly straightforward enough—researching airports and railroads for a Spanish language edition tourist map of India. Little did I know that this would be just one of many projects on my plate at any given time—and the simplest by far. Shortly thereafter, a geotourism project came on line focusing on the Four Corners region of the U.S., followed quickly by the introduction of the Southeast Asia wall map. Such a large-format map of the region has never been produced, so starting from scratch posed certain unique research and editorial challenges: finding the exact location of towns, spell-checking every name on the map, ensuring the accuracy of watersheds, coastlines, boundaries, territories, disputed areas, and so much more. Southeast Asia single-handedly changed the way I will forever look at maps. The amount of information and attention paid to detail on this, as well as all National Geographic maps, was  just mind-blowing.

Following these projects I had a few page map projects sent my way for the magazine: yes, the National Geographic magazine! I had the opportunity to research the habitat range of the Caribbean flamingo and Yacare caiman crocodile. Interacting with experts from all over the world, I was able to produce maps of these species with the guidance of NG Maps’ cartographic production staff. Coming out of a set of projects like these redefined the idea of hard and fast deadlines—they show up before you know it and there is no way of pushing them back. I had to think on my feet and move quickly to get everything done. To say the least, I never had the luxury of being bored.

National Geographic is a strikingly unique place. I cannot recall having ever worked anywhere where every employee, intern, whomever, is so excited to be there. It seems that National Geographic, by its very nature, attracts individuals who truly want to contribute to an organization whose primary mission is to inspire people to care about our planet. People do not randomly end up here; people are here because they want to be, and that sense of purpose makes all the difference in the world. I met and worked with many interesting individuals, each with a similar mission in mind: to help strengthen National Geographic and make the Society and our planet a more vibrant place.


Harry Bergmann

National Geographic Maps, Research and Editorial Intern

Fall 2011


National Geographic Maps provides spring, summer, and fall internships in cartography for college students chosen from a pool of applicants selected by university professors and counselors. The purpose of the program is to furnish students a professional learning experience through participation in various map related projects aimed at the diffusion of geographic knowledge. Interested candidates, in their junior or senior year of academic work, should apply through our Jobs site.

Changing Planet

Meet the Author
Juan José Valdés is The Geographer and National Geographic Maps' Director of Editorial and Research. He guides and assists the Map Policy Committee in setting border representations, disputed territories, and naming conventions for National Geographic. As NG Map's Director of Editorial and Research, he is responsible for ensuring the accuracy and consistency of its maps and map products.