In my first two weeks of living in D.C., I have already developed a pretty good idea of what I plan to get out of my time here. To sum it all up, by the end of this semester, I expect to be engaged.
I know, that is an odd statement to find on this blog. What those who know me may find even more striking is the fact that I am 100% single. But, I’m not talking engagement like proposal, wedding dress shopping and cake tasting (although I do plan to eat my share of sweets here in D.C. 😉 ). What I mean by “I expect to be engaged” is I have a feeling that living and working in a city with such unique dynamics will teach me to go out of my comfort zone and learn to engage with the neighborhood and consequently the world around me.
Engage with the Community
One aspect of the Washington Journalism Center that I did not expect, but am extremely grateful for, is the fact that since the day we have arrived here, our leaders have been encouraging us to get involved in the community around us. Whether that is through finding a local church to plug into or looking for opportunities to volunteer, they want us to not just be tourists in D.C. and not even to merely be young professionals here, but to explore and discover the rich culture and community that surrounds us. Believe it or not, D.C. is not all business and government. There are neighborhoods full of people with an unlimited amount of untold stories and pasts (and that excites the aspiring journalist in me).
Last semester, I took online classes from home and got a taste of life after college. In that time, I realized that there is at least one thing campus life does not prepare you for, and that is taking the initiative to get involved. To a certain extent, yes, you have to learn to go out and find organizations that you like and want to be a part of, but all your options are all crammed together in one location and every single organization vies for your attention. All you have to do is go to an “org fair” and sign up for whatever piques your interest. In the “real world,” the “campus organization fair” is a lot larger, and unless you learn to get out into your community and learn about what different businesses, churches and organizations have to offer, you will be stuck in the dreaded work, home, work, home cycle completely oblivious to all the community events and outreaches there are right in your neighborhood!
Engage with People
This area for me is a work in process. When we got here, we were told to interact with the people we encounter just waiting at the bus stop or riding the metro because of the potential to learn so much from talking to different people. While part of me is excited to meet total strangers and be blown away by the stories they have to share, the other part of me (the part that has seen some harsh realities of human nature) is hesitant to just talk to everyone I meet. This challenge made me realize just how far I’ve retracted into my shell in the past year. The people here in D.C. are so kind and helpful, and it is so fun and easy to interact with everyone…when I’m in a group. However, when I’m traveling alone, I find it hard to find the fine line between being antisocial and being safe.
Clearly, I haven’t mastered this area of my semester of engagement, but this is just the beginning. While I am a little intimidated and scared, I am up to the challenge. I know that if I consistently apply this, it will stretch and grow me. Sorry Mom, but I’m going to talk to strangers.
Engage with my Future
This is the last one and kind of self-explanatory so I’ll keep it short since this post is already much longer than I anticipated. Basically, besides knowing that I want to go into journalism, I have no idea what that might look like in my future. Being able to actually intern and be mentored by someone in the field is exactly what I’ve been looking for. I’m excited to see how this semester will shape and mold my goals and dreams giving a more specific direction for my “journey to journalism.” I may not be getting a ring this spring, but I do plan on being engaged on so many different levels.