I didn’t know too much about Northwestern when I started my college search. Before doing research, I knew two things: 1) it was close to home and 2) I wanted to study journalism and I knew its journalism program had an excellent reputation. The reputation alone should have convinced me to apply, but instead what motivated me to apply was the journalism residency (JR) program and the idea of hands-on learning.
JR is a quarter-long program when students in the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications work full-time at a site they match with and gain professional experience. I thought the concept of the program was unique to Northwestern, and I knew I didn’t want to spend my entire undergraduate experience in a classroom. I saw students worked at news organizations like the Chicago Tribune, NPR, CNN and even publications abroad, and I knew this program would make me a better journalist and storyteller.
This past Spring Quarter, I spent my residency abroad in Johannesburg, South Africa, and it was more valuable than I expected. I had the opportunity to cover protests and press briefings. I took photographs and produced videos. I interacted with people from all walks of life for my stories. My classes prepared me for this moment, but it wasn’t until my first day on the job that I felt like a real journalist. By having the opportunity to work in a professional newsroom, I learned more about storytelling and journalism than I could have in a classroom.
I enjoyed working at my news organization, but I also realized writing daily news and hard news might not be for me after all, and that’s OK. In college, you’re going to find out what you dislike, but you’re also going to discover your passions. I was more passionate about interacting with people and using multimedia to tell stories. I still love journalism and storytelling, but I know there are other paths that will allow me to use my skills. Northwestern’s environment is about students finding their direction, and my JR taught me a lot about myself and what direction I want to take.
Whether it’s JR or Chicago Field Studies (another popular opportunity for students to gain real-world experience), the classroom isn’t the only place you will learn at Northwestern. From the time that I applied, I knew JR would be meaningful and it has been one of the most impactful experiences I’ve had at Northwestern.