The rest of my semester: Internship

ImageThe last time I blogged about my internship experience in Washington, D.C. was less than two weeks into my time at Religion News Service. I came to Washington, D.C. armed with a couple of canned classroom news articles, a handful of public relations stories and a whole lot of encouragement back home. I wasn’t exactly the most qualified person to become a reporter in our nation’s capitol city. Quite frankly, I was worried that I couldn’t do it, that I was unqualified. This semester taught me a lot about who I was and what I could do.

 

At the end of the second week, I attended my first congressional hearing. The topic of the day was Sikhs pushing for more legal protections. They want the government to track hate crimes against them and other minority groups not yet being tracked. It included moving testimony from a survivor of the Oak Creek, Wis. shooting, whose mother was killed.

The following week I covered the story of the anti-Muslim ads in New York’s subway system. While I didn’t feel like this was one of my better stories content wise, it was my most viewed story (from what I can tell) on On Faith. It was shared 152 times on Facebook and 31 times on Twitter.

The next week, I tackled two poll stories.

The first addressed how most Americans don’t believe that Scientology was a real religion. While doing my research, I came to the conclusion that Scientologists remind me of a used car salesmen. They’re slick, and they use deceptive figures that don’t add up. They’re too nice, and they only tell you what they want you to hear. They put on a well-polished act, but in the end, no one would  give me the information that I wanted.

The second story was about a poll that showed that Most Americans don’t mind religious athletes showing their faith on and off the field through religious gestures, prayers and comments. It is because of this story that Tim Tebow’s picture show’s up next to mine when you Google my name (trust me—I’m not complaining about that!).

Week five was a crazy week. It happened to coincide with the Religion Newswriters Association Conference, so Kevin and Lauren were particularly busy trying to get ahead that week.

My big story for the week was an event with the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University on Thursday. I spent much of Tuesday and Wednesday preparing for the event. I went through pages and pages of data trying to figure out what to write about.

I got lost on my way there, but thanks to my handy iPhone, I made it there (eventually). I listened to the event, and then I had a phone interview with someone from an opposing organization that I had set up earlier. His phone connection was horrible, so it took a really long time to do the interview, because he kept cutting out and having to call me back.

When I finished that interview, I found a coffee shop and tried my best to write my story. I was running really close to deadline by now, and under the pressure, I simply couldn’t figure out what the new information was and what the old information was and how to best present it.

I finished it up and sent it in, and then my phone died (before I could figure out how to get the Religion News Writers Association conference). So, I found the Apple store, bought a charger for my phone and plugged it into my computer. While I was in there, I also looked up bus directions for the place I was supposed to meet Lauren and Kevin. This was only mildly successful (the cord was WAY too short—5 inches), so I couldn’t make calls while it was plugged into my computer.

When I finally got my phone running again, I had several missed calls from Kevin and Lauren. They had some questions, and because they couldn’t get in touch with me, they decided to hold it.

The next week, I rewrote that piece, and rewrote it, and rewrote it. The final draft looked nothing like the first, but Kevin and Lauren decided not to run it, because it was old news.

I spent the majority of this week (that I wasn’t rewriting my Millennial story) updating our address with various publishers throughout the nation.

While this was fairly mundane, I did have one funny incident while making all these phone calls: the previous intern who made the list switched two digits in one of the phone numbers, so I accidentally called Home Depot instead of Harvard University Press. I’m not sure who was more confused, me or the woman who answered the phone!

During week seven, I wrote two stories. The first was about the Family Research Council shooter. He was the first person charged with terrorism charges since the District of Columbia’s 2002 Anti-Terrorism Act. I enjoyed this story because it was straight forward. It made me realize that I might just like cops and crimes reporting.

The second story was a fun one to write, although I had a hard time getting quotes. I wrote about how Muslims and Hindus are the least likely to have sex outside of marriage.

Since the story encompassed developing nations, sex AND religion, it was hard to find experts that could speak to the survey. I called about 20 people, think tanks, universities, etc. in a span of four days. I only got three responses, two of which I used (and the other just didn’t fit in the story).

Hurricane Sandy really threw us for a loop. We were supposed to move the week before, but couldn’t because we weren’t there, we couldn’t move. I spent the majority of my time that week researching for a story that I pitched about deaf churches, as well as getting contacts for a story of Adelle’s.

Week nine was split between researching and writing my “ What won, what lost on 2012 state ballot measures,” moving and interviewing people for my story on Deaf churches.

I even had the opportunity to go to Gallaudet and interview a professor. I also had my first conversation via video relay.

We spent an entire day unpacking our office and getting set up on the tenth floor.

My final full week was spent primarily researching for my story about deaf churches. I made phone calls, did internet research and sent emails.

I also worked on a story that talked about different versions of the Bible and whether or not the order of the books affects the way Christians read it. I contacted a number of Christian universities and interviewed Bible professors.

I also went to a pre-screening of Life of Pi.

On my last day, I wrote the story about Hispanics in America, finished up my article about Bibles and worked on my Life of Pi article. Then we went to lunch at the National Press Club.

Lauren was fantastic. I cannot say enough about her. She was encouraging, and helpful. She would edit my stories with me so I could see what she was changing and why.

Kevin was great, though I had little contact with him for the first half of the semester. He spent a lot of time out of the office because he was having issues getting an au pair for his twins. In addition to giving me many opportunities to write, Kevin tried hard to give me opportunities for experiences. He would send me to press conferences just to learn about topics, even if we weren’t going to run stories on them.

I see RNS’s move as a good thing and a bad thing for future interns. I enjoyed having my own office at the beginning of the semester. I think that having Lauren and Kevin there would have made it that much harder for me to pick up the phone and call sources. However, being in the same room as Lauren made it much easier to ask her questions and it gave the office a much homey feel. I think I would have gotten to know Kevin and Adelle (as well as Lauren) much better if we had been in closer quarters the whole time. I also work better with a steady hum or work going on around me, than I do in solitude and silence. So, being in an office with other people helped me be much more productive.

Perhaps the most valuable lessons learned were lessons about me. I learned strengths, and I learned weaknesses. For example, I am a slow writer and at times, I’m too thorough – I spend too much time researching, and not enough time writing. However, I am dedicated. I will do what it takes to get something done, even if that means that I will spend my entire weekend working on stories for work. I learned that I have a very “can do” attitude and that really counts for something in the work force. Above all, I learned that I can do this.

I am leaving this city armed with far more than what I came with. I am leaving with bylines, stories and confidence.

#Last33

Today, Keely (my roommate) and I realized that we only have 33 days left in D.C, so we made a pact to do something new every day for the last 33 days. We will be documenting our adventures on Instagram using the hashtag “#last33.”

Today, our “new thing” was Tryst, a local coffee shop/restaurant. It was incredibly crowded, especially for a Monday night. We drank coffee and worked on homework while a live jazz band played.

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Catching up

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve written! I’d say it’s time for us to get caught up on life… 

I’m getting ready to start the eighth week of my internship (is that even possible?). Time has really flown by! I’ll try to give you the best rundown that I can.

Capitol Hill Baptist Church

First of all… I’ve been going to Capitol Hill Baptist Church. I LOVE it!!! The services are a bit different than what I’m used to. CHBC services tend to be a little on the long side, but they are packed full of amazing content. The sermons are always Scripturally based and doctrinally sound.

Worship consists of responsive reading, prayer and singing.

The music tends to be a lot more traditional than I’m used to. We sing hymns and use sheet music. No power point. No flashy lights. No electric guitar. Just worship flowing from the hearts of hundreds of people of varying walks of life—politicians, construction workers, students, Hill staffers, journalists… I love that the music that we sing is so rich and encouraging.

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One of my new favorite worship songs is “Behold Our God.”

The prayer in service is probably the most distinct thing about CHBC’s Sunday morning services. Any church can sing traditional songs and read Scripture corporately—but I have never heard a church pray like CHBC prays. Every week, they pray for our nation’s leaders, pastors of other churches and individual members of their church. There is set aside time to pray for forgiveness and time to praise God through prayer.

The other thing that I love about CHBC is their intern Bible Study. Every week, about 10 interns from various organizations meet with several CHBC members. We read the Bible and pray together. They encourage us to live Gospel-centered lives (both by what they say and how they live out their lives).

Before I left for Washington, D.C., I told Kelley that I really hoped that when this semester was all said and done, the thing that I would miss the most would be whatever church that I ended up getting plugged into. Honestly though, I didn’t really think that was possible. While I love my churches at home and school, I don’t know that I can say that I’ve truly felt “at home” in a church in a long time—but now I can. CHBC has been such a blessing. I can honestly say that Tuesday nights and Sunday mornings are my favorite times of the week.

 

Birthday

I’ve had a birthday since I last wrote. I have officially made it to the exciting age of 22—no longer in the carefree era of teenager-dom, the newfound freedoms of being 21 have lost their novelty and I’m not quite a real adult yet.

But despite it not being an incredibly exciting age, I DID have an incredibly exciting birthday. My best friend came up to D.C. for the weekend and we had a blast. 

Kelley got here late Friday night. I had cooked a homemade dinner, and we ate it on the roof of the Dellenback overlooking the city and the Capitol building. We hung out for a while, then we went to bed. We were both really tired and we had a ton of stuff planned for Saturday.

Saturday, we walked to Eastern Market and perused through the vendors’ tents and farmers’ stands. We admired tomatoes, jewelry, art and cowboy boots (I’m still kicking myself for not trying any of them on).

Next, we went to the Library of Congress, so Kelley could get her Library of Congress reader’s card.

After that, we took the metro to Metro Center and walked around the heart of D.C. We saw the F.B.I. building, Warner Theater and the National Press Building (where my internship is). We also stopped in a shop and I fell in love with beautiful, blue dress and I bought it.

We took the metro back to Union Station and had really yummy chicken salad and gelato. We walked around Union Station for a while, then we realized we were going to have to book it to get to our next destination.

We made it to the Barracks Row/D.C. State Fair about an hour before it closed, and it was a bust! Now, I understand that North Carolina has one of the largest ten day agricultural fairs in the nation and that I’m spoiled, but there was neither agriculture nor carnival rides. THEY DIDN’T EVEN HAVE COTTON CANDY (or caramel apples)!!! To make it worse, it was on Barracks row and there weren’t even any cute marines around! Lame, right? They did have some pretty cool acrobats, but other than that, there wasn’t much to see.

After  the “fair,” we went to Georgetown for cupcakes at Georgetown Cupcake. We waited in line for about 30 minutes to get in, but it was worth the wait! I got a chocolate birthday cupcake (appropriate, right?) and Kelley got a coconut cupcake. They were both absolutely delicious (and they had a pink, sparkly Kitchen aid mixer… can you say, “I want!”?)!

When we got back to the Dellenback, Kelley and I got dressed up as quickly as we could (I wore my new, blue, sparkly dress) and headed to the roof for a mocktail party, where we chatted with WJC and ASPers for a bit. When we got tired of socializing, we watched movies until the wee hours of the morning.

Sunday was pretty chill… Kelley left early/mid-afternoon, which was incredibly sad. I’m so glad she got to come. I had so much fun with my forever friend.

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Internship

My internship has been an incredible learning experience. It’s been an opportunity to grow and be stretched. Some days are slow, and other days are packed full of excitement. Some weeks I have 2 or three things published, other weeks, there’s nothing at all. Learning that every day isn’t going to be something to write home about, has probably been the biggest thing for me. My first week was so successful, the lull that hit after was discouraging, but Lauren and Kevin have both been really encouraging.

That being said, I have done some really cool things. I wrote about an article featured in National Geographic exposing religious influence on the illegal ivory trade, I’ve tried (in vain) to get in touch with Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae, and talked to a former pro-baseball player (totally by chance).

I also got my congressional press pass. It’s probably my most prized possession that I’ve acquired this semester. Now, I’m not wanting to sound vain, but I normally take really good ID pictures, but if you look at the picture, you might notice that I look like a hot mess!

Well, I had a 2 o’clock deadline on my story that day, so I rushed down to the Corner Bakery in my building after I finished writing it and rushed to the bus stop. I didn’t get a chance to eat before the bus got there and I knew I wouldn’t be able to take it into the Capitol building, so I decided to scarf it down once I got off the bus. It was extremely windy, and the sky looked like it was about to pour—and pour it did. I barely had enough time to get my umbrella out before the heavens opened up! The wind was so strong that I had to throw away the rest of my lunch because I couldn’t hold my umbrella upright and hold my Panini at the same time.

I made my way towards the Capitol building as quickly as I could through the pouring rain, when a particularly strong gust of wind hit me and brought a wall of water with it and knocked me smack dab in the back. By the time I made it to the Capitol building I was drenched from head to toe, but it made for a good conversation starter though. While I was there, I got to take the subway under the Capitol building and I got to see the press gallery—most importantly though, I got my press pass.

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Wow, it’s getting really late and this post is getting really long. I’m going to call it a night and hopefully get you caught the rest of the way up later this week (perhaps tomorrow?). Stay tuned for a road trip, the North Carolina State Fair (it was a Bumper Crop of Fun), bus day and a slightly rekindled passion (pah!).

Here I go!

Well, it’s finally here! I start my internship with Religion News Service tomorrow! I will admit, I am both excited and nervous.

Yesterday afternoon, Sydney (a fellow WJCer) and I met with our mentor, Annalisa. Annalisa is a WJC alum from past semester. Since graduating from Gardner-Webb in May, she has taken a job and moved back to the D.C. area.

During our time together, Annalisa shared with us what she experienced last semester. She talked about the good things and and the hard things that we would face and shared with us from her experiences last semester.

Our talk with Annalisa combined with Friday’s internship oriented class and pizza talkback session with WJC alums have stressed me out. I’m definitely starting to feel overwhelmed… well, it’s more like I’m feeling overwhelmed because I know I’m going to be overwhelmed in the near future (if that makes any sense whatsoever).

This feeling has led to many nagging questions and feelings of unworthiness in my mind… Why am I even here? I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m going to fall on my face this semester (metaphorically AND literally–have you tried to walk on D.C.’s brick sidewalks in heels?). I’m not prepared for this. I’ve never written a real news story before. What if I get two weeks into my internship and realize I hate it? I’m a slow writer, what if I can’t keep up?

Annalisa had the same internship last semester that I have now. She’s told me that my editors are fantastic. They’re really good at teaching and guiding interns through the ins and outs of journalism.

Another thing that Annalisa talked to Sydney and me about was how even though she went through the program last semester and really enjoyed herself, she really didn’t think that she had been called to be a journalist. Her current job actually involves very little writing. She reminded us that we’re constantly learning, growing and developing and that it’s okay if we don’t know what we want to do now or when we finish WJC or even when we graduate from college.

Annalisa’s transparency on that subject meant a lot to me. As I mentioned earlier, sometimes I don’t even know why I’m here. I’m not a journalist, nor had I ever planned to be. I enjoy writing and maybe I do have a future in journalism, but the thing is that I just don’t know yet. All I do know is that this semester is about discovery.

So, to help me stay focused during this semester, I’ve come up with a list of goals for myself. They may seem silly and I’m sure my list of goals will change over time, but this is what I have for now.

  • Have at least one story published in a major newspaper (Washington Post, New York Times, etc.)
  • Meet/talk to someone really famous.
  • Learn a lot.

We’ll see how all this goes as the semester progresses. I’ll do my best to get a quick update up about my first few days at RNS sometime this week.Image

What I’ve learned so far

Since I arrived in D.C., the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities staff had been preparing us to live and work as young Christian professionals in the city. We have been from Anacostia to Alexandria to Capitol Hill on a scavenger hunt to help us get acquainted with public transportation in the city. Abigail, Rose and James have imparted wisdom to us regarding city living, including grocery shopping, churches and safety. WJC and ASP program directors, Terry Mattingly and Peter Baker, have lectured on subjects such as journalism, professional calling and different views of Christianity.

The thing that has stuck out the most to me in the two weeks we’ve been here, however, hasn’t been how to figure out which bus to take to get where or how not to get mugged, but it has been our readings and talks about being a Christian in the “real world.”

Many times, young Christians (particularly graduates from Christian colleges) feel pressure to pursue “Christian” vocations. If one feels called to a secular vocation, then the solution is to Christianize it. That’s why we have our Christian newspapers, Christian magazines, Christian music, Christian movies, Christian books… you get the point.

Now, I’m not saying that this Christian-niche is necessarily bad. I definitely believe that there is a place for all of our Christian materials. However, what if some of those editors or musicians or writers would work to become the best of the best in the mainstream? What if rather than creating Jesus-saturated media that only appeals to those who already know Him, they created wholesome, excellent and balanced materials that appeal to (and therefore reach) a larger (and often unsaved) audience? What if…?

It all boils down to how you live your life. I believe it’s just as possible for someone to live a life pleasing to God as a journalist for World as it is or as a stay at home with your kids or as a reporter for the New York Times.

Last Tuesday, I went to Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s intern Bible Study. We talked about I Peter 1:1-2 and everything worked right with what we had been talking about in class!

What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects — with their Christianity latent.   ~C.S. Lewis

Now… here’s the catch… figuring out my calling in life… 😉

Getting Settled in D.C.

Well, it certainly has been an eventful few days here in Washington, D.C.

My parents and I left Raleigh early Thursday morning. We stopped for lunch outside of D.C. at Uno’s pizza (last lunch as a family until November). Then, we made our way through D.C. traffic to the Dellenback Center.

We made it here, checked in and I unpacked myself. After my parents left, I spent some time getting to know my roommates. Speaking of roommates, I have five of them!

Our apartment has two floors. The bottom floor has a kitchen, sitting area, kitchen table, a half-bath and desks. Upstairs has a full bath and two bedrooms. Four of us live in the larger of the two bedrooms, and the two others sleep in the smaller bedroom.

Friday night and Saturday morning were spent in Orientation activities. We learned about the safety and transportation in the city. We also went over the Community Covenant and academic expectations. Saturday afternoon, we were divided into groups and went on scavenger hunts throughout the city. My group visited Senator Burr’s office, the Giant Chair, Arlington, The National Press Building, and the Smithsonian Natural Science Museum. We had to make a video, so I’ll post it once I have the link.

Speaking of the National Press Building, that’s where my internship is going to be.

This morning, about 10 of us went to Capitol Hill Baptist church. After church, we came back, fixed lunch, and then went grocery shopping.

Grocery shopping was definitely the adventure of the day. One of my roommates, Elizabeth, wanted to find her internship, so we took the bus to downtown. After we found her internship, we got on the Georgetown Circulator, which EVENTUALLY was supposed to drop us off at Safeway near our apartment… or not… it took us all the way to Georgetown. We found a Safeway in Georgetown and did our shopping there. Then, we went to the bus station and took a different circulator bus to Union Station. During this ride, our bus driver got lost. When we finally got to Union Station, we walked back to our apartment. Total trip time: 4 hours.

The end of life as I know it (and the beginning of something new)

Today is the end of life as I know it.

Tomorrow, I get in a car, drive for about four and a half hours and move into an apartment with five other girls in the heart of our nation’s capitol. We will all be participating in the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities’ Washington Journalism Center program or American Studies program. In early September, I will begin a journalism internship with the Religion News Service, “a non-profit wire service delivering current, unbiased coverage of religion, ethics and spirituality from around the globe.”

This semester isn’t just about professional development, although that is an essential part. This semester, will be different to say the least. I will have no option other than to be stretched. I will learn/grow life skills such as budgeting and cooking my own meals.  I will form new relationships, both personal and professional and I’ll have to learn how to tackle transportation (and just life in general) in a city larger than any I’ve ever lived in before. So by the end of the semester, I will hopefully be a better writer and a more mature, self-sufficient, confident adult.

These experiences are not the only ones that are shaping my new life; the people around me are changing as well.

Perhaps the biggest change is that exactly one week after my parents leave me in D.C., they too will be packing their bags, uprooting their lives and starting over in a new place. My dad’s company  has given him a 16 month assignment in Wisconsin. They will be moving back to home just before I graduate from Gardner-Webb. This means that for the rest of my time in college, “coming home” will either consist of short vacations with my family in Raleigh, or coming home by myself. It also means that I will spend some holidays in the “Cheese State.”

Another change is that my friends’ lives are changing as well. Between marriage, grad school and internships, my core group from Gardner-Webb has dispersed across the Southeast. My roommate of two years will no longer be there and hopefully, I’ll be taking an RA position when I return.

At home, two of my best friends graduate from college this year (one in December and one in May). Neither of them are really planning on staying in the Raleigh area after graduation.

I have no clue what I’ll be doing next summer, or where. Living in Wisconsin with my parents is one option, as is living in our house in Raleigh. Of course, nothing is really tying me down to either place, so that opens the door to explore internship opportunities in other areas.

After next summer comes my final semester of college, graduation and–the real world.

I normally don’t do well with change. I don’t like not knowing what’s coming next, but surprisingly, I’ve been at peace about the changes. I know that these next few uncertain weeks, months and years are an adventure and the start of something new.

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.  Isaiah 43:18-19