I don’t know why it took me so long to require it, because the reward was so great.
For the first time in the nine years that I’ve been taking students to a journalism convention in New York City, I required them to write to me what they got out of it.
Often in past years, I could tell by the banter in the van on the ride home that they were inspired and that the wheels were turning in their heads about the various possibilities for the communication degree.
But this year, for whatever reason, I wanted it in writing. I wanted them to think a little bit and get those thoughts into a document and hopefully be honest and not write what they think I want to hear.
They did (well five of out nine did, to date). And I love what they wrote.
One was really inspired by keynote speaker Vikram Ghandi, who travels the world telling human interest stories for VICE and also made a movie about religion with him posing as a religious leader.
The student wrote that she never saw herself as a local newspaper reporter, but realized though him that there are larger stories to tell on a broader platform and that interested her.
She and another student also wrote how they never thought of New York City as a possible landing spot in their careers, but now they do.
“This experience completely changed my idea of living in a city, and I honestly feel like I have a new vision of how my life could be,” she wrote.
One also talked about Ghandi and his comment that you almost have to need to do journalism to do it well. She questioned whether she had that tremendous desire, then decided she probably did “because almost all the inspiring journalists I met at the conference seemed to be making some kind of difference in the world.”
Many wrote about the social aspect as well, saying getting to know other student newspaper workers on a more personal level was great. One called it “beautiful.”
Another spoke of how perhaps her most valuable session at the conference was on whether or not to go to graduate school. It was presented, she said, by two journalists doing the same job – yet one went to grad school and one didn’t.
A great part for me was that they were honest about sessions they went to that fell short.
“Then I went to ‘Finding Your Niche in the Media World.’ I was hoping that this would open my eyes to a million new job options for a newly graduated communication major. Unfortunately, the presenter was boring and bland and didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t already know,” one wrote.
Arguably my favorite comments from these students were about newfound empowerment – just from a few days in the city around like-minded people.
“After the conference I see that you need to put yourself out there and be confident. Taking a risk is how you’re going to get what you want and be successful … This conference gave me confidence and inspiration. I’m really excited now to see where I can go with this and excited to go back to the conference next year.”
I asked for these written reactions to see if the conference inspired them.
In return, they inspired me, and as I tell everyone, that’s why I love this job.