By Kaitlin Schluter, WJC Spring 2011
If I could ingrain something in your mind as a survivor of the Washington Journalism Center, it would be that. Get out. Leave your apartment and Facebook profile. Pause that episode of “The Office.” Tell your mom you’ll call her later. Fight your love of routines and familiarity. Get out. Descend those stairs, rush out of the Dellenbeck Center, and start creating those D.C. experiences. As much as the first weeks of WJC feels like a honeymoon, you’ll be back in your boring zip code before you know it. Right now, at this moment, you are living in one of the most exciting cities for someone your age. Not to mention, your career. So get out whenever you can and pursue the city as if it were a crush.
The best experiences I remember all happened out in the city. My roommates and I were big on taking short adventures throughout the week. We would meet on U Street for an organic meal at Busboys and Poets, complemented with an equally cool book lecture. We would jump the Metro to Alexandria and Baltimore. We spent 24 hours straight in New York City. We took a whole day to eat only gourmet cupcakes. Our apartment was empty most days, albeit the occasional debriefs around the kitchen table about work, God and life. But this mantra of “Get out” tugged my arm constantly in other ways.
I heard its voice whisper to me in the newsroom. Get out. Bombard your editor with twenty story ideas. Talk to the crime editor about picking up an article, even if it means talking to the parents of victims. Schedule your interviews offsite, even if you feel more comfortable talking on the phone. Volunteer to cover the celebrity social justice event, even if it means working the night shift. Trudge through ten inches of snow at six in the morning just to contribute a quote to a story. Get out. Get out. Become the person who is willing to say “yes” in order to gain more reporting experience.
Let the voice tug you out of the classroom and down new sidewalks. Take on large research topics that put you in contact with vibrant thinkers and radical locals. Read The News About the News on the Capitol lawn. Write your paper in the Library of Congress Reading Room. Make relationships with those you meet at your service learning sites. Go to their churches and ask them where they see God in their community. Get out and seek God in the harsher parts of town. Ride the bus over the metro. Surround yourself with locals, not tourists. Get out and attend new churches. Get out. Get out.
Get out of your comfort zone. Take a walk with TMatt. Get tea with Greg. Ask your editor out to lunch. Get to know your classmates, especially the ones you feel you have nothing in common with. Get out and make this semester your best one yet. Get out.
(Top: from left- Heather Hunt, Kaitlin Schluter and Hillary May)
(Bottom: from left- Hillary May, Heather Hunt, Kaitlin Schluter and Grace Venhuizen)