A Sad Goodbye

They told me that I was going to make life long friends at this week long conference. Did I believe them? No. I was just trying to find someone to hang out with and explore Washington, D.C. with. That is not what happened.

We started off our first color group meeting by finding groups of four and standing in a circle. We were told to put our hands out to our sides, parallel to the ground and hold them there for as long as possible. If anyone in our group dropped their hands, we were out. We randomly grouped up, barely knowing each other’s names. Three other girls and I nodded at each other indicating we would be partners and began. Quickly into this game our arms really began to hurt (to be fair, I have no upper body strength), but we were determined to win. So, guess what we did. We started to have a conversation about how great Robby is for JoJo and how Jordan may have something he is hiding. Our conversation about the Bachelorette consumed our minds as we giggled with each other. Before we knew it, we won! As simple as holding your arms in the air sounds, I think how one handles this task says a lot about personalities. Little did I know, our small circle of girl talk would lead to amazing friendships.

As the week went on, we met another girl, and the five of us became inseparable. We walked the monuments, the museums, and the national mall together. I’m so lucky to have met these wonderful girls.

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Overall, the whole last day was difficult. It started off with a goodbye video knowing that, following the video, I would have to say my goodbyes. These are difficult because it goes something like this, “I know I may never see you again. Hopefully we can take a vacation and see each other, or we can try to intern again next year so we have another week together.” Our friendships would not be like most. They lived in Pennsylvania and Louisiana. Everything is a maybe, a wish, a hopefully.

We did have to say goodbye though. So, I gave them long hugs and grabbed all of my things and headed for the airport. The airport was a struggle as I had four delays and missed a layover because of them, but when I finally arrived in Grand Rapids at 1:00 am, my parents were still happily awake to see me.

There is no way to fully describe this trip. It was amazing, life changing, unforgettable. I met some of the coolest, most down to earth, world renowned people. I visited some of the most beautiful and historical places. I made some of the best friends. I’m so incredibly happy and lucky to have had this opportunity. Thank you so much to everyone who donated money, supported me, and encouraged me.

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The More than Expected Thursday

Thursday consisted of a day on Capitol Hill. We arrived at the Capitol around 9:00 am and were encouraged prior to the trip to preschedule a meeting with one of our senators or representatives. We had between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm to have our meetings and mine was scheduled for 12:30. Awkwardly in the middle of the day, it made it difficult to plan out where I would go before and after. Two of my friends, Sam and Ak did not have any meetings scheduled, so they planned to spend the day with me. When we first arrived, we knew how hot the day was about to be. As we waited for our group and individual pictures in front of the Capitol, we each felt and watched beads of sweat drip down our foreheads and backs. 97 degrees and pure sun. Who needs wind? We did, but we were not going to get any. Of course, professional attire does not allow for much heat to escape either so after taking many pictures of people and the scenery as well as getting pictures taken of me, we searched for air conditioning.

We decided to go on a Capitol Tour that started at 10:15. Throughout this week, if nothing else, I definitely mastered getting through security. Every building I entered I had to walk under a metal detector after unzipping my bags and sending them through machines. Once we made it inside, we had a long wait until our tour actually started, but it gave us time to cool off. Our tour guide was a very old man. He was not great with the technology and no one on the tour could even hear him. At one point, he even disappeared in the middle of showing us a statue leaving everyone confused on what to do. We concluded that although we may not have received any of the historic information, we did get to see some beautiful structures in the capitol. (Where president stands for a moment during his inauguration pictured)

After the tour, we rushed to the Hart building for my meeting with Debbie Stabenow. We met the man in the office who took our names and told us to follow him. Through many hallways, up and down 2 elevators, through more security, and to a new building by an underground subway, we ended up in the senate area of the Capitol where we would wait to meet Stabenow. While patiently waiting, senators from all states passed by; the most exciting, though, was Bernie Sanders. He came flying down the stairs and through a doorway in the flash of an eye, although it was so quick, of course it was still exciting to see him and brag to my fellow correspondents. When her voting finished Stabenow came to see us. She was very kind and we ended with a picture, but she was rushed and the area was crazy crowded because Hillary Clinton was about to be the speaker at the democratic luncheon. Security guards were everywhere and hallways were completely filled with people, but just as my elevator door was closing, I got a glimpse of Clinton. This day was nothing like I expected, but it was incredibly fun and made for a fun tweet on Twitter. (Stairs that Bernie Sanders walked down pictured)

Afterward, we visited the National Museum of the American Indian for lunch (btw do not let anyone convince you that a bison burger is good. They are extra dry. I promise) and ended our day at the National Air and Space Museum where our buses picked us up.

We had about an hour and 30 minutes to get ready for the gala, something everyone was looking forward to. After a tiring, busy week, the gala was an evening to eat good dinner and let lose with our friends. Everyone looked amazing, and we took what seemed like a million pictures. For dinner, we had a wonderful chicken meal with chocolate cake at the end. The night was filled with fun music and great friends. We connected as a yellow group so much that night. We laughed with each other and encouraged the quieter members to dance and let loose. Overall, it was a great night.

 

Wide-eyed Wednesday

Hey y’all! At least that is what my great friend Anna Kate would say. To start out this post, I want to say thank you to the people here at WJMC. We spend 19 hours together each day, and are continuing to do this for an entire week. You make me laugh, and I know you’ll make me cry on our last day because I don’t want to think about you being 14 hours away. Thank you Megan, Natalie, Anna Kate, and Sam for always being so kind.

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To start out our morning, we meet for breakfast. Sketchy cafeteria food means Cocoa puffs, fruit, and apple juice, but it’s always enough to last until lunch. Bad food isn’t quite as awful when you can complain about it with your friends.

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One of the many amazing things about WJMC is meeting inspiring people that you never thought you would meet. Wednesday morning Carol Guzy, 4 time Pulitzer Prize winner, stood in front of us and spoke about her journey. Her honesty was inspiring. Photographing earthquakes, tragedies, and deaths is not easy. A photograph is not just a picture but something that actually occurred and the photographer was there to witness. Guzy also shared how she lost her mom, sibling, and dog all in a very small time frame. After accumilating the amount of loss Guzy deals with, we were all hurt but not surprised, when Guzy shared that she was in therapy for a while. After sharing her amazing and heartbreaking stories, Guzy showed us a video montage of her photographs. To see tragedies through Guzy’s lens was incredible but extremely emotional. You know she is amazing when tissue boxes are passed around the room to wipe up the tears. Guzy shared that her teacher once told her, “If the photograph is not good enough, get closer.” This does not always mean physically closer. Get to know your subject, model, or landscape. Create a real connection. Feel something personally and your audience will as well. A small example of Guzy’s work below.

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To get the full experience, not only did WJMC give us successful speakers to listen to but also conducted a journalism simulation. I was given the title “local editor,” and my job was to pitch my story idea in a way that proved it was front page worthy. We were taught how to work in teams, create leads and headlines, make a story appeal to a larger audience, and come up with a creative picture to go along with the story. I really enjoyed this as it gave us  an idea of what life working with newspapers would be like.

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“I really just wanna nerd out with you about this movie!” – Kevin McCarthy, Entertainment Reporter, Fox5, Fox & Friends. The hour and a half spent with McCarthy was extremely fun.  His endless excitement about movie effects and the love of his job created a light hearted environment after Guzy’s presentation. He was humble, honest, and just as excited to meet celebrities as we would be. “Do what you love, and the money will follow” because “a job doesn’t have to feel like a job.”

Following McCarthy, we had breakout sessions. My friend Ak and I went to a presentation by a photographer, a quite impressive one at that. Not only has she taken photos for National Geographic, but she also has written for USA Today and produced for HGTV, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, and the White House. Hearing Meghan Reese speak reminded me so much of myself – from her passions to her personality. Her desire to share people’s stories and her drive to do something bigger than herself is powerful. Reese’s honesty was also extremely helpful. She encouraged us to take every internship offered. “You’re going to have to start out doing the crap work that no one else wants to do, but just keep going.” Connections are key. Reese spent many days talking to people like “great Aunt Susie,” but it lead her to internships and jobs that I could only dream of.

This particular Wednesday was extremely eye opening. Though diverting my attention back to the fact that the journalism industry is largely based off who you know was a bit dispiriting, it also made me incredibly motivated. I can’t wait for jobs and writing opportunities to come to me, but I can call people and meet people to increase my network. Local news companies, here I come!

 

Tuesday – Day #3

Take a second and think back to your childhood. Ever since elementary school we read articles from a magazine with a big yellow rectangle on it. Little did we know then that it was a National Geographic Magazine, which tells stories and takes photographs that would inspire us all today. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed the cute animals and amazing scenery. This is why I was extremely excited when I found out I would be meeting the editor-in-chief of National Geographic. Susan Goldberg is the first female editor, and loves to keep up with the technology today. When Goldberg was talking about the growing social media of National Geographic, she said, “We’re bigger than even Victoria Secret, which always just slays me.” Congrats on staying trendy with today’s lingo, and having a 55.3 million followers on Instagram.

After enjoying lunch at an Italian restaurant named Buca Di Beppo, we traveled to the the National Press Club to listen to the president, Thomas Burr, talk about his journey to get to such an impressive title. Surprisingly, he was an extremely humble man as he told us how honored he was and how lucky we were to be sitting in the same spot that important figures such as Ghandi and celebrities such as Angelia Jolie have spoken.

My biggest fear of WJMC was faced this fine Tuesday. The oldest speaker was the opposite of what you might imagine. He managed to be the most intimidating speaker by far and extremely quick on his toes. Brain Lamb is the former CEO of C-Span and still is actively involved. As he entered the room full of eager students, he said, “I’m going to start this off by asking a few questions.” The entire hour and thirty minutes was Lamb questioning students, challenging students, and leaving students speechless. Lamb taught us how to think. He taught us that we aren’t all right, even the most confident people. He taught us to consider the opposing side’s views – a lesson some of us definitely needed.

I apologize for the low quality picture. I did not want to draw any extra attention to myself. — P.S. I managed to make it out of the room without being interrogated by Brian Lamb!

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Following Brian Lamb, we had an hour and fifteen minute long political panel. I have to admit, I really hate politics, though I have to give major credit to all of our speakers for continuing to capture my attention. I’ve enjoyed even those times I was least excited for. After dinner, we ended the night listening to Mike Shear. He is a New York Times White House reporter. His stories of what Barak Obama does after dinner, and his trips to Africa with the Obamas were extremely entertaining. Did you know Obama eats seven almonds for his evening snack?

 

I have to say that the people I am meeting at WJMC are people that most citizens will never meet. I am very blessed to have this opportunity to meet such widely recognized figures, who have so much valuable knowledge to share with me. Thank you!

Definitely not the Monday Blues

What do you expect when you sign up for a week long summer journalism conference in Washington, D.C.? I thought I had an idea of what my days here would involve, but, turns out, you have no idea what is coming for you. And, waking up at 6 am and going to sleep at 12:30 am is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the friends you are going to make, the world renowned people you are going to meet, and the amazing places you are going to go.

Monday: wake up, eat breakfast, and get on a bus. Typical camp, right? Not quite. Next, meet Hoda from the Today Show, watch her sing to pop hits, and take pictures after personally speaking with her about journalism careers. Absolutely amazing! “You only need one person to really believe in you and someone else to support you along the way” – Hoda Kotb. I learned to never give up on something you really want.

Later, we took on the Newseum. Located in downtown Washington, D.C., the Newseum is six floors of journalism paradise. It consists of funny sites, amazing views, heart wrenching videos, and fascinating old newspapers. My first stop was at a 9/11 memorial section. It had a piece of the twin towers along with a documentary about the different journalists’ experiences while at the 9/11 terrorist attack. It was amazing to see, but it was extremely emotional. Next, I saw a room of the evolution of journalism. It had front pages of important newspapers dating back to the 1600s along with cameras, KKK outfits, and other historical objects. There was also a Vietnam War section with video footage, military uniforms, and the cameras used while in the war. This was another extremely sad part of the Newseum. The entire building was full of history. In the basement, stood a large section of the Berlin wall. The East side was blank because of the strict government rules while the West side was covered in art. It was amazing to be with something you read about in history books. Once we reached the sixth floor of the Newseum, there was a balcony leading out to downtown Washington, D.C. The capital stood tall in the background for photo opportunity while a city overlook was in the other direction. As amazing as this all was, my favorite part of the Newseum was on the first floor. The room of Pulitzer Prize winning photographs was definitely amazing. This room brought out every emotion with each picture. As some made me giggle, other photographs brought instant tears. As the girl who walked around with a camera around her neck all day, a room full of beautiful photographs was inspiring.

After the Newseum, WJMC took a quick dinner break at The Exchange, but then continued on throughout Washington, D.C. A quick stop by the White House for a photo opportunity also consisted of street performers and peace activists. Though, my favorite part of the day was next; we spent hours at a Twilight Monument Tour. Starting off at the WWII memorial and ending at the Lincoln Memorial while stopping at the Vietnam War memorial in-between was definitely memorable. I feel so much respect toward our soldiers who fight for our freedom and our lives. The memorials were gorgeous and paid a great tribute to our veterans.

There are places that I always see on TV and dream of going to. The Lincoln memorial is one of those places. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in the exact location that I was able to stand in. I feel so incredibly honored.

The friends I am making here are amazing. The places are amazing. The speakers are amazing. This opportunity is one in a lifetime. Thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way to reach this point. I really appreciate it.

 

 

 

Just the Beginning

Today was a day of overwhelming excitement, nervousness, joy, and exhaustion. Meeting over 200 teenagers who share common interests with me was amazing. I made friends who I already don’t want to leave. I started the morning by meeting my team leader, then had a campus tour, heard from a New York Times columnist over an amazing dinner, and finally enjoyed “getting to know you” games with our color groups (GO MELLOW YELLOW)! I bonded with people over life at home, supposedly looking alike (girl pictured in green), and our loves for journalism! This experience is just beginning, and I can tell that I only have fun and amazing opportunities awaiting in the upcoming days. imageimage

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