I could probably write a full page about each day spent at WJMC… or several for that matter! But, I still don’t feel like that would do justice. Not to mention that my few readers would probably abandon me. (:
Instead, with a full week to think about the impact of WJMC, I can really see all that I took away from it. It wasn’t JUST about visiting the capitol and witnessing the excitement of D.C.. It wasn’t JUST about the sight seeing or listening to speakers like Hoda Kotb share their journeys. And I don’t think it was even just about the knowledge that I gained in the journalism field. Rather, the compilation of all of these made the overall experience inspirational.
Not to be cheesy or get caught up in reminiscing, but in all actuality, WJMC really will change my life. First, the students and faculty were absolutely incredible; with students from all over the U.S., the amount of diversity and different ideas that we brought to the table was amazing. In addition to building awesome friendships, it taught me the importance of networking in not only journalism but the business world as a whole. In fact, you didn’t have to be a die-hard-future-journalist to walk away from WJMC with an incredible experience. As an aspiring attorney who has an interest in journalism, I can say that WJMC doesn’t brainwash its campers into thinking journalism is for everyone. However, what it did show me is that telling a story, being bold, and making a difference is what characterizes a person who desires to leave an impact. Inspired.
“Whoah. We’ve done all of that, and it’s only Tuesday?”
Just as awestruck as I am, one of my new friends from WJMC couldn’t have explained my feelings more exactly. In no more than two days, we have experienced a tour of The Newseum (including incredible artifacts on display, such as the mangled antenna of the North Tower of the World Trade Center and a piece of the Berlin Wall) and sight-seeing at The Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, FDR Memorial, and White House.
However, D.C. itself is merely a backdrop for the incredible personalities that have spoken to us over the past few days. Those who spoke to the conference include Candy Crowley (Chief Political Correspondent for CNN), Brian Lamb (Executive Chairman and founder of C-SPAN), Jamie Smith (Executive VP of Media Strategies for Edelman), Michael Shear (White House Correspondent for The New York Times), and Ed Henry (Chief White House Correspondent for Fox News). Many of these reporters had polar-opposite views when it came to ideology, and it was amazing to see what each person brought to the table and how they could use their own experiences in the journalism field to give us advice.
Although every speaker captivated our attention, Hoda Kotb (Co-Host of the Fourth Hour of “Today” on NBC) truly lit up the room as soon as she walked in. Making us both laugh and cry as she told of her struggles to reach her dreams in broadcast journalism, Kotb was a role model for many and inspired all. Looking back at her early career, Kotb spoke about her failed attempts to get a job at 27 news stations before finding position and then asked, “Do you know who will make it in journalism? People who never quit…Be nice and work hard. You don’t have to stab people to make your way up.”
As I think about everything I’ve experienced in the last few days, I truly feel like I have gained weeks worth of memories, textbooks worth of knowledge, and innumerable connections. The opportunity to experience the best sight-seeing Washington can offer and some of the best reporters that modern journalism can offer is one that cannot be replaced or forgotten.
Wow. “Culture shock” doesn’t even begin to describe the transition from a small town in rural Texas to our nation’s capital! I woke up this morning knowing that I would be at the WMJC when I laid my head back down, but the reality of that didn’t even start to sink in. In fact, I’ve had a whole day to soak it all up, and it still seems surreal.
As I sat at the DFW Airport, giving myself a pep talk and preparing to fly alone for the first time, another passenger recognized my WMJC t-shirt and enthusiastically ran over to me. After I got over the initial confusion caused by a complete stranger being super pumped to see me, I realized that she was also on her way to the WMJC. During the plane ride, the dry, brown landscape turned lush green, and it was clear that we were no longer in Dallas, Texas. As we walked down the steps leading directly from the tiny plane, she said “I feel like a first lady or something right now.”
After finding the rest of our group at the airport, I think we both felt like we could finally breathe. No longer worried that we would be left behind to wander the streets of D.C., my friend and I were able to relax, as we got on the charter bus and gazed in awe of our surroundings. We kept finding ourselves looking at each other in awe saying, “Is this really happening right now?” Luckily, it wasn’t some weird and vivid dream, but instead a reality that continued to soak in throughout the day as we arrived at the WMJC, stepped onto George Mason University, and eventually found ourselves listening to none other than Peter Doocy.
As a high school debater, it was incredible to go from watching interviews and pouring over news articles to listening to a correspondent in person. As a young reporter from Fox News, Doocy’s incite was truly inspiring. The same guy that has covered stories like the Boston Marathon bombing and Sandy Hook could also relate to us on college life and career searching, making our dreams and aspirations seem not quite so far out of reach.