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The new and (now) the old

Once again, another maturing and enjoyable experience comes to an end. This is always the hardest part for me because I wish these moments could go on forever. Alas, there is a time for everything new to someday become old, and while I don’t wish the memories I’ve gathered on this trip become old and begin to fade away, I know they will inevitably do so… After some time. I’ve still got so much reflecting and remembering to do now, though!

I’ve discovered a lot on this trip about myself, about journalism, about humanity. I observed what life is like in two different places; I talked to people with unique stories; I experienced what it was like to be an outsider in an unfamiliar, somewhat frightening place.

Yet as we were off in our own little world exploring and learning in New York and DC, our classmates, families, friends, and colleagues were carrying on with their lives, too. And whether or not they developed stories like ours during this January term I do not know, but soon enough we will all reunite – classmates with classmates, parents with children, friends with friends – and reminisce on these individual journeys we’ve had. The part I find most interesting about this is that with those close to us, our stories almost always meet up again and continue like normal, even after they diverge so much. We split off and come back together, and it’s as if no separation ever happened. But so much has. For me, it sometimes feels like a dream, in the sense that I have a memory of exploration and travel and interaction with people I don’t normally see, but it feels almost fake or dreamt up because I am quickly swept right back into my routine like a swimmer in a current.

But from my first photo to my last, I’ve enjoyed all that this trip has offered. I am excited to continue growing the relationships that flourished during this class. Thank you, New York, for being a place of such adventure and hope. Thank you, DC, for giving me a new perspective. Thank you, Kevin, for putting up with us. And thank you, my classmates, for making the whole experience so much better.

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Some Things I Learned Along the Way

As I am now sitting on the plane heading back to Spokane, I’m reflecting on some things I learned, saw and experienced while in NYC and D.C.

  • Starbucks will never fail me, I don’t know what I would have done without my morning Starbucks run or the ice water in NYC.
  • Going to art museums is worth it, especially since I can still use my student ID to get the discounted rate.
  • The streets in NYC are conveniently numbered and the Subway is not as scary as I thought, aside from some interesting folks.
  • Visiting D.C. during a government shutdown is an interesting experience with major decisions being made all around us.
  • I finally got a Twitter to see what all the fuss was about and found it was a good place to see breaking news and to follow lots of news organizations.
  • Entering the journalism field right now is exciting and scary at the same time with a lot of changes to traditional journalism practices.
  • I desperately need to teach myself more audio and video editing skills.
  • Make connections anywhere you go, whether it be at a news organization or people in the hostel.
  • The streets in NYC never quiet down and honking is an art form.
  • Trying to walk to the MLK memorial when it’s 17 degrees out with a wind chill of below zero is not a good idea. A warm botanical garden is a much wiser decision.
  • Try new foods everywhere you go. On this trip I had Thai, Korean, Chinese, Mexican, American, Vietnamese and Japanese food. Finally learned how to use chopsticks!
  • Going on this trip was a good decision because I got the chance to see what it would be like to work for various media organizations and gave me some more directions of where I want to be in the next few years.

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To the people I met.

Meeting people is a critical part of being a traveler. If they’re from the area, then you understand the place much more. On the other hand, if they aren’t then you’ve still added to your network. I met a lot of different people on this trip, many of them now following me on social media. It’s always good to know people in every corner of the world. By increasing one’s network, nobody is ever alone.

Kawan and Justique – Starbucks

The lady at the front desk of the Broadway Hostel in NYC laughed as she told me to not drink the water from the pipes. With a smile and nod, I ended up in a Starbucks down the street, asking the person at the counter to fill my water bottle. Multiple returns to that Starbucks throughout my stay on Broadway lead to me meeting a young man named Kawan and his buddy, Justique. We talked about basketball on several nights. Kawan is currently taking a gap year between his associate’s degree in law and his bachelors in criminal justice. Thank you, Kawan and Justique.

Lloyd – Broadway Hostel

On one of my last nights in the NYC hostel, I was helping another man named Lloyd carry bags from the storage room. Lloyd worked at the hostel and eventually we starting talking to each other more. He even came out to dinner with our group to a place in Times Square. Lloyd simply wants to find a good job anywhere in the U.S.. Thank you, Lloyd.

“Officer Fire Extinguisher” – Staten Island Ferry Terminal

I never actually learned this officer’s name, but I was asking him for directions on how to get a ticket to go to Liberty Island. This conversation spiraled out of control and became a conversation about his intense partying life. One weekend before I was talking to him, the Officer was spraying people with a fire extinguisher and ripping the shirt off of his friend. He also ended up talking about how boring the Statue of Liberty was. One helpful tip he gave, however, was that the Staten Island ferry was free and offered a good enough view of the statue. The officer is probably  Thank you, officer.

Eddy – Pizza Place on Broadway

It’s much easier to slow down and have a conversation with a random passerby when you’re not with a bigger group. Just a block over from the hostel in NYC, I saw a red, neon sign for “PIZZA,” I figured it would be a good place to stop for late night snacks. Eddy was a cheerful, middle-aged family man from Mexico that I met regularly. He would serve me two pepperoni slices and ask me about why I was in NYC. The man was a maestro of the pizza art, his hands acting independent of each other as he put pizza in the oven and prepared more slices. Eddy was laid off from his job in Mexico, which lead him to try and make something of himself in NYC. He owns two pizza establishments. Thank you, Eddy.

Various Hostel Roommates in DC

Wiley Drake, 79, was a presidential candidate from the independent party back in 2016. The man was warm, congenial and welcoming to me. One can imagine I was surprised when I read about him on Wikipedia. He called on his supporters to pray for the death of Barack Obama. He is also very pro-life, being in DC for the March for Life.

Eddie Thomson is from a small village somewhere in southeast England. He is the chef for a restaurant around those parts called Prawn on the Lawn, which I will surely visit one day so that I may check up on him. He wasn’t talkative at first, but opened up through conversation.

Emanuele is from a small village in northern Italy among the Alps. He has been based out of England for five years as a nurse. One day, he wishes to visit Alaska. I told him I would like to visit his village as well.

Sebastian is from northern Germany, currently working at his PhD in civic engineering. He came to D.C. to attend a conference in public transportation. The man was quite talkative about how big everything was in America. He told me to let him know if I ever come to Germany and I surely will.

Steve was an older Chinese man that hardly spoke English. He was always on a conference call with his associates on one phone and on face time with his loving family in another. We had one conversation, but it was hard to speak to him with the language barrier. I think he works in interior design. 

Brian was a short, little man from Vermont. He was quite animated, especially for meeting him at one in the morning when he came in to the room. Apparently he had problems with his flight from New Orleans, where he was vacationing at. He only stayed one night before flying home to Vermont.

Lastly, I met Mark. He is a 27 year old physical therapist from Texas and likes to go trail running. I usually caught him coming back from runs. I applauded his healthy lifestyle. He invited me to go running with him sometime if I ever found myself in Texas. 

People come and go from our lives, but it’s always interesting to learn about how other people have lives that are as vividly complex as my own.

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I Saw the Signs

First Signing Starbucks store in the U.S.

Ok, I know it’s a bit of a punny title, but I couldn’t resist. While we’ve been in D.C., I’ve noticed the different ways museums, memorials and even coffee shops have adapted to be more accessible to Deaf and blind persons. These little things help combat the issue of ableism, the preference of able-bodied people.

One of the places I noticed this was at the Newseum where they had taken two dimensional photographs and raised them to make them three dimensional. There also were points that someone could touch to hear the subject of the photo speak. I thought this was a great way to make a photo exhibit in a museum more accessible to someone who is blind and would not otherwise be able to experience it.

Another place I noticed a feature that is accessible to blind persons and other disabilities was the FDR Memorial. Located just off of the National Mall, the FDR Memorial marks each of his four terms as President. The creators of the memorial wanted to add something that would be accessible to blind persons and the created an area with tactile reliefs and braille. However, these elements were placed too high for the average person and drew criticism. Throughout the memorial there are ramps for easy access to everyone. It was the only memorial I saw that made an effort to make it more accessible to all people.

The last thing I saw/experienced was visiting the Signing Starbucks store. This is the first Signing Starbucks store in the U.S. where everyone who works there is fluent in American Sign Language (ASL). Located down the street from Gallaudet University, a bilingual school for Deaf and hard of hearing students, this store caters towards this population. In my almost week and a half in D.C. I have seen multiple times people signing in public.

I learned about this Signing Starbucks store this past summer when I saw a video about it on the Starbucks Instagram page and knew I wanted to go experience it while I was in D.C. I know little ASL, but before going to check it out, myself and some other students on the trip learned some basic ASL (thanks Cambria and Meghan!). Walking in, we all got a little nervous because we were in an environment that was not catered to us. It made me think how people we label as “disabled” feel in a world that is catered to able-bodied persons. A truly humbling experience.

In the end it was really cool to interact with people who are Deaf or hard of hearing as a hearing person. I struggled a bit a first with communicating in ASL, but I was able to successfully order my drink and tell them how to spell my name by signing. It was encouraging to see their faces light up as I made an effort to communicate by signing. I hope to see more of these Signing Starbucks stores across the U.S. to encourage hearing persons to put themselves in the shoes of someone who is Deaf or hard of hearing.

Starbucks in ASL

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Final Thoughts with Meghan Foulk

These final thoughts won’t be screaming and whining like our favorite Tomi Lahren, but they will offer opinions that should not be considered fact!

  • New York coffee shops need to learn about this thing called WiFi. How else am I supposed to write these blog posts when our hostel network decides to kick me off as frequently as Trump’s tweets??
  • We should all be more open about what we love. From going on tangents about media literacy education to debating the latest season of Game of Thrones, we make friends through our loves and build connections with each other through them.
  • Caffeinate as often as possible. Just accept your addiction.
  • Museums are always worth spending money on. You’ll see things you’ve only dreamed about, like Van Gogh’s Starry Night, and find the weirdest things like the sound tunnel thing at the MoMA that I still don’t know the name of. In times such as these, we should always spend money on the arts. This trip, I managed to go to with zero regret:
    • The MET (NYC, $12 for students)
    • The MoMA (NYC, $14 with student ID)
    • The Guggenheim (NYC, $18 with student ID)
    • The Whitney (NYC, $18 with student ID)
    • The Holocaust Museum (DC, free)
    • The Newseum (DC, we went as part of the trip, but typically ~$21.25 with student ID)
    • The National Museum of Women in the Arts (DC, $8 with a student ID)
  • Sometimes questions you didn’t expect get you answers that you didn’t know you needed. So ask questions all the time, even when the answer may seem obvious.
  • “Bring light not heat to conversation.” – Paula Kerger, CEO and President of PBS.
  • Education doesn’t always happen in the classroom. Sometimes it happens in late-night conversations with roommates, in crowded museum halls, down in the subways, over sushi that had way too long of a wait, and in the smallest moments so brief you may have missed it.
  • The travel bug is easy to catch and will never be sated. And that’s okay. Just save up some money first.
  • As dire as the situation may seem with fake news and Trump, there are journalists working hard out there to bring the truth and are truly servants to the public. We can’t disregard the entire industry for faults of others, and we should recognize how the environment has forced media to step up and become more responsible for their content and reporting.
  • Polaroids are great for traveling, as they are impossible to recreate and make an experience of waiting for a picture worthwhile.
  • Everyone and everywhere should have compost and recycling. Our world is dying and people need to get their crap together.
  • I like empty, abandoned spaces. Those should be explored more often.
  • There must be some irony in women wearing resistance shirts and carrying Zara shopping bags post-Women’s March.
  • Everyone should participate in one march or protest in their lives. People coming together for change is a powerful thing, and when we allow ourselves to be passive in the face of conflict then we are no better than the oppressors.
    • First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. – Niemöller
  • We should yes more often, it leads to things we don’t often foresee.
  • We are responsible for this nation. So let us take responsibility.

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“I was on the 82nd floor when the first plane struck.”

William Raff, 9/11 survivor, poses in front of the Survivor Stairs, center, a staircase which workers had to hurry down to escape falling debris during the terrorist attack.

The National September 11 Memorial and Museum is rooted in ground zero of the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Sections of the towers, recordings of key individuals and equipment used by first responders were all on display in the exhibit. I became moved by the memorials to the deceased, which involved pictures of everyone who lost their life that day as well as in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Being able to see the camera that the Naudet brothers used in their 9/11 documentary and simply be in the presence of miscellaneous items that were present during the attack held a substantial significance to me.

While examining a part of the broadcast antenna from the South Tower, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on one of the guides. He was an elderly man of short stature, yet he spoke with the spryness of a young man, hands and face animated in grandeur on his experience of the 2001 attack. I decided to let him work instead of disturbing him for an interview.

Once I finished the exhibit, the elderly gentleman was still out there. He began to walk in the other direction away from me. In the back of my mind, I knew that I would never forgive myself if I passed up this opportunity to interview him about what he was doing and how he felt during September 11th. I ran toward his general vicinity and caught him just as he was wrapping up a prevention of the Survivor Stairs, a staircase which many had to rush down to escape falling debris. 

“I was on the 82nd floor when the first plan struck,” he mentioned.

He told me everything and spared no expense. I felt gratified at getting the most interesting interview I’ve ever done in my life. It will surely be in my multimedia project.

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Wrappin’ it up

People have told me before that you “learn the most when you go out of your comfort zone and experience things that are different than what you are used to.” And those people are so right! It is easy for me to acknowledge the many ways that I have grown during this trip, whether it be professionally or personally. I have learned a lot about myself, about other places in the country, about my career, and about traveling with a somewhat large school group. I have compiled a list of some of my biggest takeaways from this study away opportunity. And boy am I thankful!

  • It is important to remain optimistic even when you feel frustrated or overwhelmed. There were times when I wanted to complain but I tried to remind myself that in order to make the experience more enjoyable for myself and everyone else, that I should just roll with the punches of things!
  • Be flexible. There are other people on the trip and they want to get the most out of the experience just like you do.  
  • Take time for yourself, even when it seems like you are constantly surrounded by others. There were days when I felt drained – mentally, emotionally, physically, and relationally. But taking a step back and having me time (whether that be a nap, listening to music, or journaling) always seemed to be extremely beneficial!
  • Do what you love. A number of media professionals that we met with touched on this subject – working is fun if you’re passionate about what you do every day!
  • Don’t be afraid to take risks! 
  • Ask questions! I’ve learned that it is better to ask a question and get clarification rather than be too scared to and wish that you had asked it later on. 
  • Other places might scare you – and that’s okay! You can ask anyone in our group, I was terrified when we first got to New York. BUT it was good for me because it was something that I wasn’t used to! I got out of my comfort zone that is Spokane and Rancho Cucamonga and while I was nervous about it, I can now say I did it!
  • Last, have fun. Though there were times when I was tired and wanted to nap, I chose to go out and adventure with the group. I knew that this experience with this group of people was something that I would only get to do once, so I tried to live it up as much as possible.
The rad group of humans that I got to spend Jan Term with 🙂

These definitely weren’t the only things that I learned. I could go on and on, but I hope that individuals who embark on this trip in the future are able to find some of these lessons useful. I have been blessed with a unique opportunity and experience and have grown tremendously throughout it while making some lifelong memories. Through the laughs and the tears, so much was learned, so many incredible friendships were made, and I gained insight from media professionals that I can carry on into the rest of my career. Yay for an incredible Jan term, and a big shoutout to those that encouraged me to go on this trip and have helped me get to where I am (you know who you are)!

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