Finding Focus

Greetings from Grad School

It’s been long…waaay too long. I could blame it on the workload of a graduate student, but I think something bigger has been at play. Lately, I’ve been trying to find out what I want to learn in graduate school–in this year-long adventure with the top journalists in the DC area with an array of opportunities and experiences. I have learned some computer and technology aspects of reporting, like shooting and editing video. However, the next part becomes, what will I shoot? What will I want to express in different multimedia platforms? When employers ask me, what do you want to write about, my answer can no longer be “everything.” I’ve always gone in with the notion that I should take on whatever challenge I’m presented with by saying “yes” to every story and “yes” to every way they want me to produce it. This is a good rule of thumb for a job or internship, but how do you get to one first? As I learned in Bootcamp, part of the puzzle is your brand.

What’s my brand, you ask? I challenge you to tell me what yours is first! A deep understanding of oneself and one’s passions is key to finding this answer. The problem I face, however, is how I want to define myself in my career. I’ve never been gung ho about a particular political party, nor have I advocated a certain sports team. I’m not a very confrontational person, so I tend to point out all sides of an argument rather than facing off with my side of the story. I love to read stories on finance (if done well), but I’m also a sucker for stories about the environment, social issues overseas, and even oddball news or relationship columns. Some say this sort of objectivity and flexibility is good, but others say it’s a lack of opinion and passion. I’d say it’s a mix of trying to be a journalist and trying to be a person of interest.

My urge is to stick with my “general assignment” mentality, but I keep hearing over and over that specializing is the key to employment. But before running on the path of the “perfect job applicant,” I stopped and thought to myself, what have I done, and what parts of that did I actually enjoy?

I can say the stories that have gotten me most excited to write are ones when I dealt with the Greencastle School System at DePauw. I love connecting with children through reading, writing, math, and so forth. I spent years tutoring children and getting an inside look on how the system really works. I also have a deep interest in Middle Eastern affairs (I’ll admit, that’s the main section I turn to when scrolling through major newspapers). I’ve always had increasing guilt about not understanding Farsi, and I’ve felt this metaphorical break between myself and my family because of the language barrier. So I finally stopped making excuses and I purchased the “Rosetta Stone: Farsi” edition, which should hopefully help me achieve my goal of speaking Farsi by the end of the year. Although something like Spanish or Arabic would have been more useful for my career, I figured I should start at the roots–at the language I have always wanted to know and should have known all along.

Clearly, I’ve gone through some several realizations throughout the past week and a half in graduate school. First, that I am going to be challenged and strengthened by my course in foreign correspondence. I say I am interested in international news? Then prove it. Create a trip file, establish contacts in your region, read up on your region, learn the language, and find out how much it costs to go there. The real deal.

I’m finally starting to listen to those who said “specialize, specialize, specialize.” So within the next few weeks, I hope to dive deeper into issues of education, women’s rights, the environment and a little bit of health policy. Although that doesn’t sound quite so narrow, it’s definitely a step forward for me. Look out for commentary, articles, and links to the issues I just described. Hopefully you’ll be interested in them too!


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