It’s been a year since I landed in Washington, DC for what would be one of the most influential weeks of my life.
For those of you that don’t know, this blog was originally started for The Washington Journalism and Media Conference which I attended last July 7 through 14. It’s amazing how much one week in the Nation’s Capital affected me: I made life-long friends, became passionate about politics, and officially decided what my major in college would be. The world of Journalism is not very small, and my eyes were shown just how big it can get.
Even though I had visited DC two times before, I didn’t know what to expect when my plane first landed at Ronald Reagan National Airport. It had been my first flying experience (minus that one time when I was an infant) and I had gone solo, I was all alone in Arlington, VA when I had to go fetch my luggage and find somewhere to wait. I would be a completely different person in just seven days.
I had been to conferences and camps before, but nothing compared to WJMC.
Girl Scout summer camps and various leadership conferences could have never prepared me for the week I spent in Washington. I’d heard veterans say that the friendship bonding would last a lifetime but I just pushed it aside, assuming that it would be like every other conference I had been to. The first few people I met were not just friendly, they were spontaneous and excited and intelligent…kinda like me.
Signing in at George Mason’s campus, I was able to see just how many people had come on the first bus load. The staff was inviting and helpful and when I was handed my name tag (which, by the way, doubled as a legitimate press access badge), my heart leapt with joy.
I was in the Red Group.
I was a part of the group–no, the family–weeks before I even arrived in DC. Brian Wilson, our leader (as well as this super awesome teacher, mentor, and friend), followed me on Twitter and soon a bunch of us were connected through social media. We were the COOLEST group because of our awesome hashtag (thanks to me) #REDisRAD, which I’m hearing is going to be used again this year.
Some of my closest friends came from this group and it was astounding how close we became in the matter of a week. I left GMU closer to some of these people than my own friends back home.
The passion was real.
I was no longer the only person I knew who loved to write, who loved politics, who could speak in front of a large crowd without stuttering. We–150 of us–were all passionate and all wanted to be at WJMC. People went out of their way to meet with their senators, to make videos and blog posts outside of their assignments, to read books in advance about the guest speakers, sports, and politics.
Regardless if they wanted to hear the sports panel or see Brian Lamb–founder of CSPAN–speak, they all listened intently and respected each question the audience members asked. For the first time in my life I was surrounded by mature teenagers that had more in common with me than the majority of my friends.
Leaving was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
I’m not a teary-eyed type of person, but I nearly cried as I hugged my good friends goodbye before catching my taxi back to the airport. The entire week flashed before my eyes and the shock of leaving finally hit me. I didn’t want to go.
There were many things I learned from the Washington Journalism and Media Conference.
Independence: From scheduling a taxi, to checking my own luggage, to finding Kay Hagan’s office behind the Capitol, I learned how to do things without the direct help of my parents or other adults. Even though some of it was a little scary, I learned to conquer those fears in order to function as a human being.
Press Conferencing: The many press conference-type situations we were put in allowed us to understand exactly how the investigative side of Journalism works. They were exciting and informative which made all of us feel confident.
Journalism: Journalism isn’t just a career, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a don’t-sleep-until-you’re-dead lifestyle, it’s a first-hand lifestyle, it’s life. I was able to experience political Journalism, sports Journalism, social Journalism, and many others. From The Today Show’s Hoda Kotb to the majorly cute film critic Kevin McCarthy, I was able to experience Journalism head-first and behind the scenes in a world that only allows you to see the pretty news anchors on your television.
I miss this so much, but going back is not an option. I’m moving forward.
WJMC has helped me to move forward.
Deciding on Journalism as a career choice, considering DC as a future home, deciding to run and being elected as a DECA State Officer (alongside one of my fellow Red Group members John-Martin in Arizona), becoming a teen activist on the very blog that I used for WJMC. These are just a few things that happened under heavy influence from The Washington Journalism and Media Conference.
I have matured, I have developed my mind, and I have moved forward. Thank you, WJMC.
To follow along on my journey at the Washington Journalism and Media Conference, you can watch my WJMC playlist or click on the following blog links below.
10- “Our Last Night”
*Any missing numbers are blog posts that include videos that are available on my YouTube playlist*
Images courtesy of WJMC’s flickr.