Two summers ago I was waiting for pizza in a psychedelic Asheville restaurant, where Alice in Wonderland decor festooned the balcony and great paper animals floated from the ceiling. This evening of pizza marked the grand finale of my internship with WORLD. Another young writer, Sophia Lee, sat beside me. Though our backgrounds could not have differed more, we had shared the upstairs bedrooms in the Olaskys’ house for the three weeks following our stint in Manhattan at the World Journalism Institute (WJI).
“That’s something to write a column about,” Dr. Olasky told me over the pizza. “How very different young writers came together in Asheville, N.C.”
I did not think it was a very good idea at the time. That summer had the misfortune of following my worst semester in college. I felt pancake flat and wanted to be at home. Instead, I had become a solo traveler, shoving my life into badly organized bags and hopping onto busses and planes. I resonated with Bilbo Baggins: always getting kicked out the hobbit hole when I was in no mood for adventures.
But like Bilbo, my adventures more than paid off in the end. Last Sunday I had the pleasure of reuniting with three WJIers from my 2012 class: Sophia, J.C. Derrick, and Catherine Rogers. And, typical for 20-somethings, our lives had grown much bigger since our last encounter. J.C., who was shopping for rings in the Manhattan diamond district last we saw him, brought along his wife and baby. I, the formerly burnt-out, heartbroken, and lonely for home, got to bring my husband Jonathan along. All four of us alumni had jobs in journalism (three with WORLD News Group), and we chatted about them so loudly in the restaurant that the people behind the counter wondered if we would ever leave.
We talked about what a good thing WJI really is, about how much we learned, and about how highly we recommend it. At WJI we received the best gifts a young writer can ask for: personal lessons in concision, mechanics, ethics, media law, photography, video, radio, editing, interviewing, and worldview. Besides all that, we made friends from all over the country (and some from other countries) whose varied journalistic interests stretched our visions of reality. Our class had hard news writers, poets, bloggers, agricultural writers, columnists, movie reviewers, and political writers. We all had different strengths, and WJI made us all stronger journalists.
I didn’t want to go to WJI. I was a literature major, and I didn’t want to be a journalist. I wanted to stay home in my cocoon and write about my neighbors like I always have. But WJI paid off more than I could have known at the time I was experiencing it. I recommend it to everyone who has a young (or not-so-young) writer living in their house.