I wasn't even interested in journalism when I came to Georgetown. But somehow four years later, here I am.
Unemployed, true, but with a handful of internships under my belt, a list of professional contacts and the sort of experience that makes me know this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
My first run-in with journalism at Georgetown was move-in day 2000. My dad and I were inching along in the heat to Harbin when an uber-enthusiastic student approached the car, offering us a copy of The Hoya. I grabbed one, but since writing for a newspaper didn’t fit into my grand plan to major in Spanish and join Georgetown’s dance troupe, I tossed the paper in the back seat.
After my plans to make the dance team fell through (i.e., I was rejected), I decided to sign up for every club and organization possible at SAC Fair.
I'll be honest, I sauntered over to The Hoya table because of the free candy. Later, I followed a cute boy to my first news meeting. A few sleepless nights and a dozen stories later, I was promoted to the position of editor.
By the end of sophomore year, I was still working for The Hoya. Its office in Leavey is known for sucking people in and never letting them escape. But I survived -- sanity intact -- and started thinking that maybe journalism was more than just a pastime.
I put my Hoya experience to practical use that summer as an intern at NBC. My first day on the job, I followed a reporter to Rock Creek Park where police had just uncovered Chandra Levy's remains. I also enrolled in my first journalism class at Georgetown, where along with fellow aspiring journalists, I learned about the ethics and responsibility that come with the profession.
With a lot of persistence, I got a reporting internship at the D.C. bureau of the LA Times junior year. There, I covered the IMF/World Bank protests, the D.C. area sniper and after a coin toss, beat out the other interns for the chance to cover the glamorous Kennedy Center Honors.
Before I graduated, I would write stories for a national audience at USA Today. The experience I gained during my internship there would help me get a newsroom job at the Washington Post as a senior.
I wouldn't be lying if I said everything I've learned about journalism, I learned during my four years at Georgetown.
At The Hoya, I stumbled through the basics with a group of people who came to be some of my best friends. None of us really knew what we were doing but as long as we were having fun, things seemed to fall in place. My journalism teachers -- most of them involved in the profession themselves -- helped me make the transition from the classroom to the beginnings of a career. And through my internships, I learned by doing, working alongside the best of the best.
There's a reason they call Washington D.C. the political and media center of the country.
If journalism is your calling, go out there and take advantage of it.
First and foremost, I want to make it abundantly clear that doing journalism at Georgetown -- or anywhere for that matter -- is what YOU make of it. People do not walk around campus handing out internships to The Washington Post; you have to involve yourself, gain experience, and get your name out there. That said, GU and Washington, DC offer a multitude of opportunities for the former, if you have the patience and gumption to work at your craft, ask questions, and make connections.
I will be the first to unabashedly admit that I came to Georgetown for two major reasons: its reputation and location. I have always wanted to write, and Washington was the ideal place to pursue this line of work, given its wealth of publications, research institutes, and forums for all kinds of writing exploration.
While my journalism experience is perhaps a bit different than some (I did not even take my first journalism class until senior year, having studied it and been involved in publications since high school), I hope it will provide some insight into making these four years work for you.
I spent my freshman year working as a staff writer for The Hoya, covering about one to three stories a week and getting bylines on the front page (not too hard a task if you are willing to report the tougher stories and spend some time conducting on and off campus interviews). Some of my articles were even picked up by the college AP wire. However, a busy freshman year with too many commitments (the freshman plague of overexertion) led to me dropping my position with The Hoya and striking out on my own in search of internships, those glorious (at times tedious) forays into the working world that are ESSENTIAL if you want to make a go at becoming a writer.
A rule of thumb: the more and varied the better and it's never too early to start. When applying for work, look for all sorts of possible positions -- not just as an editorial assistant -- to increase your chances of getting hired. When one place turns you down, which will happen, often, go to another, and just refuse to take 'no' for an answer.
I jumped from work as a staff writer at a daily newspaper to a PR news liaison position at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History to TV/Film production at National Geographic to magazine journalism at National Geographic Traveler to work in the Political Unit during an election year at ABC News all in the course of my four years at GU.
Each placement helped me gain a position at the next, and while there, I let them know immediately of my ambitions, what I wanted from the experience, and where I hoped it would take me. I spoke to people, asked questions, offered to help on whatever projects they needed -- in short made myself known and available. Georgetown is a name that opens doors; use that to your advantage and once there, show them what you are capable of -- it's bound to pay off in the long run.
I basically used DC as my journalist playground. I pumped the city and all its locales for jobs, made the most of where I lived, and maximized my time at school. It was hard work, but it paid off. Upon graduation, I signed a contract with a newspaper I used to work for in Florida, The Orlando Sentinel, to work as a freelance foreign correspondent in Asia, where I am currently traveling on a seven month backpacking trip. (FYI: Keeping in touch with former employers and editors, always dropping them lines to keep them updated on your progress, is a really good idea, as it may just lead to gainful employment!)
In essence, I cannot emphasize enough what power you as an individual have to dictate your journalistic future. Do not wait around for something to miraculously come your way -- take classes, apply for internships, get published wherever you can, and utilize your environment to its fullest potential. In the end, you never know where it might take you ...
I was a junior when I sat down for my first journalism class at Georgetown. I had never seen my name in print. Before I graduated, I had completed an internship with The Hill newspaper and was covering politics for The Hoya.
When I first wandered into The Hoya's newsroom as a senior, I was sure I would be behind the learning curve. But thanks to great Georgetown professors and energetic classmates, I learned and fell in love with journalism at the same time. Without journalism instruction at Georgetown, I never would have had the courage to write my first story.
The Georgetown journalism program set me up with a great internship at The Hill during the second semester of my senior year. I wrote stories that appeared side-by-side with The Hill's regular reporters' work. I learned what a real newsroom was like and had free rein to question candidates, congressmen, and anyone I chose.
After graduation, I worked for a congressman, went to law school, served as a law clerk to two judges, and now work at a law firm. My journalism experience reaped dividends every step of the way. In each job and in law school, it became clear that writing was a foundational skill that affected every other task. Without that first journalism course and the path it put me on, there is no question my writing ability would not have been the same.
No class at Georgetown has been more important to my career than that first journalism course my junior year.