Dear future correspondents,

I’ve been trying to figure out what to say in this first blog post, and I’ve been struggling. So many things happened to me at my week at the Washington Journalism and Media Conference, and there’s only so much I can say to the future correspondents:

A week home and I’m still  tired from the rush of last week. I still remember my excitement when I received my first email from Elena. I still remember my excitement when my acceptance package finally arrived in the mail – even though I was told of my acceptance two weeks before.

From the minute I got my acceptance email to attend WJMC in November 2015, I thought the longest time of my life would be spent waiting to arrive in D.C. on July 5. And I was right, it was the longest nine months of my life. But I was also wrong. I departed from D.C. on July 10 – six days after I arrived – and never has six days felt so far apart.

As the conference was approaching, I postponed packing more and more. The day before I departed, I raided my mom’s closet in search of business clothes that wouldn’t look too ridiculous on me. Being across the country on the West Coast, I left my house on Friday, being that it would take a full day for me to land in D.C. I didn’t want to leave my home. All my excitement was left in the last nine months and for once I was nervous. I hadn’t read any of the recommended reading, hadn’t attempted to make friends or read about my faculty advisors.

I would say don’t follow in my footsteps, but my footsteps lead me to four people I bonded with and will never forget. My time at WJMC2016 was six days of my life that I will hold on to throughout my life. There were sleepless nights, long days and, in the end, a lot of tears.

Ten things I want to tell you:

  1. Pack tissues. Keep them with you wherever you go – from the minute you arrive on campus to two days after you arrive home. Especially in those last moments at WJMC, you never know what will trigger you to cry. Learn from my experience.
  2. Blog. Memories will begin to clash and fade and all I want is to be able to hold on to those memories forever. Although I didn’t bother to blog during our designated time,  I spent that time with new friends who have grown very important to me – leading me to my next point:
  3. Make friends. Try and make friends outside of your color groups. Sit with someone different at dinner when you’re not with your groups. You’re in D.C. with 200+ kids who you have never met before – there are so many opportunities for you to take.
  4. Take risks. Show everyone what you know and learn from others and what they know.
  5. Ask questions. You are going to have so many things running through your head during all of the speakers. It doesn’t hurt to ask questions – the speakers are there for you and to answer your questions.
  6. Sleep as much as possible. Whether it’s right after you shower after security check or on the bus going into the city. Sleep when you have down time because otherwise, like me, you’ll be sleepy all day and won’t be able to enjoy all the daily activities.
  7. Get to know your roommates. I had a room to myself, and shared a bathroom with three other girls. Most of us kept our doors shut and, to be honest, I couldn’t tell you their names. Become friends with your roommates and take turns having first shower.
  8. Be nice to everyone. All the correspondents are in the same shoes as you – they’re probably far from home, came here alone and not knowing anyone and are just as excited and tired as you are. People may be there for different reasons, whether it’s because their parents made them, they’re trying to test the waters to see if journalism is the right career for them or they are here because they know they want to be a journalist.
  9. Call your parents. They sent you to this conference because they care about you and know this is going to be one of the best weeks you’ll ever have. Call them every day or every other day and tell them whats going on, who you’ve met or where you’ve gone. They will appreciate being updated since they can’t experience it with you.
  10. Keep in contact. You’re going to cry at the gala. You’ll cry in your last color group meeting and, since then, you’ll be on and off crying until you board your plane, and maybe a little bit after that like me. Spend as much time with your new friends as possible – you only have six days together. Get each other’s social media – so you can see pictures of them and their life in another state. Get their phone number – FaceTime them before you forget their voices and what made you become such great friends.

My time at WJMC2016 has taught me so many things from working with people I don’t know, that in the end, it’s always you who gets to decide your future and make your own choices and that real friends aren’t always the same age as you and may not live in the same state as you, but you’ll always see them again, as if you never said goodbye.

Dear future correspondents, I promise you that July will come soon enough and you’ll be standing in Baggage Claim 6, awkward and nervous – which is worth it. Because it leads you to the best people and best experience you’re yet to have.

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