Tag Archives: engage

Reflections on WJC: AWARE

IMG_20150418_152612_554

At the beginning of this semester, I blogged about how I expected to “get engaged” through my time in the Washington Journalism Center. Now, a week after my semester in D.C. has ended, I have come to the conclusion that, yes, I did have many opportunities to engage with the neighborhoods and community surrounding me, but more than that, I’m leaving this semester: AWARE.

Aware of the Issues 

So, first let me start out with a confession (I tend to have a lot of those on this blog): As a journalism student, I did not keep up with current events and news nearly as much as I should have. Thankfully, my professor for the semester, and the founder of WJC, drove in the importance of reading. Read my internship’s publication, read the publications relevant to D.C. and overall read to stay informed. Going into this semester, I wondered how journalists develop the content and background behind each story. The simple answer–read.

As I started subscribing to e-newsletters and read the main stories of each day, I started to feel more connected to what was going on both nationally and internationally. It might be the journalism nerd in me, but there is a thrill that comes with being able to connect news stories and articles with every day life. All of a sudden, I would be at an event and the speaker would talk about something that I had just read about, and because of that I felt both engaged and aware with what I was observing and learning this semester.

Aware of the State of the Media

Both inside and outside the classroom, I learned about how much the media is evolving, innovating and thriving. Prior to this semester, I knew the industry had its share of challenges, but I didn’t really understand the dynamics of it all. However, through classes on topics such as “the business model crisis of the media” and the opportunity to attend the American Press Institute and Poynter’s Digital Storytelling Summit, I came to understand more about the impact the digital age is having on journalism. A few months ago, I would’ve never associated terms like startups and big data with journalism, but now, I can’t think of one without thinking about the other.

Aware of Big Data

Speaking of big data, startups and the digital age, thanks to my internship at 1776, a D.C. based startup incubator, I became more aware of the influence and importance big data and analytics have not only in media, but in all industries. Have you ever had someone tell you about something you’ve never heard of before and then after they tell you about it, you see it everywhere? Well, that’s what my internship did for me. I didn’t know what a startup incubator was before I started my internship, but by the end of the semester, I felt immersed in the startup, tech world. I also became aware of how broad of a reach tech and data has on everything. Every news article I read had some sort of tie back to technological developments, social media challenges, privacy concerns, etc. The fact that technology has become a significant part of our lives and culture was not a new concept to me, but being at 1776 helped me really understand and experience that first hand.

Aware of How Much I Have to Learn

Speaking of ignorance, I often describe this semester as humbling. After being editor-in-chief at my previous college’s newspaper and attending a couple journalism conferences, I felt like I had a fairly good grasp of journalism. I knew I wasn’t ready to go straight into the field and learning is a lifelong process, but I didn’t know how much I didn’t know. Through my experiences this semester, getting edits and grades back from my advisers, I was quickly knocked off of my high horse. I’ll admit, that was discouraging at first, but I’m thankful for it because it gave me areas to focus on and grow in. I do not want to find out what would’ve happened if I went on in ignorant bliss only to have a brutal reality check once I hit the workforce.

Looking back on my semester, I am so grateful for all the opportunities and experiences that I had. I expected to learn a lot from this semester, but I did not expect the types of lessons I would learn. There are so many issues, topics and lessons that I could talk about, but I’m still processing all of this and also, I want to spare you from reading a really long blog post. Most of my semester though can be summed up into the word: aware. This may sound cliche, but after my WJC semester, I will never see the world the same way again. It has opened my eyes and changed my perspective in ways that I could’ve never expected or imagined.


What I’m Looking Forward to this Spring

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.

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 11.10.42 PM