Tying it all up

I’m writing this from my flat in the South Bank of London where I am just finishing up my second day of a three-month-long study abroad and internship experience.

This will be the last post of my spring semester; the rest of the summer will be about London and all things British, with a bit of journalism thrown in for good measure. In the meantime, a conclusion to the tumultuous tale of the past few months is necessary.
These past few days have been a whirlwind, and I realized I never really got the chance to write a blog post in which I reflect on this semester, tie it up with a nice little bow and toss it on the “Lessons Learned” pile. As I was spending entirely too much time decorating my end of semester portfolio, all of these lessons were swirling around my head. Some of them ended up on the pages of my semester reflection. At the time, I didn’t know how to say everything I wanted to say. I ended up posting random notes on the inside of my portfolio’s bindings, which probably confused my professor. Sorry, Sara.
Maybe it took me so long to write this final blog post for this semester because I spent my only free day last week rushing around throwing bits and pieces into a suitcase. My other theory is that it took me more than a few days to process it all. I’m going with the latter.

Because there was so much action in just four months of reporting, my neat little bow is going to be in numbered list form.

What I Knew Before Reporting Semester:
1. I loved writing
2. I loved journalism
3. I was happy to write for Vox
4. I was scared
5. I would survive

What I knew during Reporting:
1. I had no social life
2. 1 am is an early bedtime. 6 was a good time to wake up.
3. I wanted sources to please, for the love of God, return my calls.
4. Sometimes, my personal struggles got in the way of my reporting abilities.
5. I hated number 4.
6. I really hated number 4.
7. I wanted sources to please, for the love of God, return my emails.
8. I didn’t want to ask for help when I needed it, personal or otherwise.
9. Cheez-its were a meal.
10. I wanted sources to please, for the love of God, return my tweets, texts, smoke signals, etc.
11. I wasn’t happy when a story wasn’t written to its potential.
12. Court records are not as easy to obtain as you think they’ll be.
13. Ditto number 11.
14. This wasn’t supposed to be as hard as I was making it.

BUT somehow:
15. I loved writing.
16. I loved journalism.
17. Despite how it appeared or felt at times, I was really happy.
18. I would survive.

What I know after reporting:
1. There is life on the other side.
2. Remarkably, my friends still love me.
3. Sleep is a lovely thing and necessary for daily functions.
4. Sources will get in touch. They will. Eventually.
5. Dealing with personal struggles is part of becoming a better journalist.
6. Ditto number 5 as it relates to writing.
7. Ditto number 5 as it relates to life.
8. When you don’t ask for help, there are people who make sure you get it.
9. Full meals are usually best when they’re not processed and attaining them. does not involve a vending machine.
10. Trying to make a story good is often better than trying to make it perfect.
11. Professors who truly care make all the difference.
12. Some sources are much more than sources; they become necessary friends.
13. I stand by the court records thing.
14. I love writing.
15. I love journalism.
16. I am pretty darn happy to be in journalism school.
18. I will continue to do so.

So much of this semester was spent troubleshooting things on my own, but I couldn’t have realized that last list without several people coming into my life at just about the most crucial time. One of those people was someone I could never refer to as “a source,” but someone whose passion kept me motivated to tell her story. LySaundra Campbell has overcome quite a few personal struggles in her own life. We began to work on a feature I was writing about her just as the worst of the semester had begun for me. When I asked her what she held onto to make it through, she read me a Bible verse. She told me its words had been her anchor. So, being in desperate need of an anchor, I held on too.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2-3).

This seems like a good place to end. I’m tying up my reporting semester with a big, thick knot and throwing it onto the pile. Onward to more challenges. Onward to more lessons. First stop, London. Summer 2013.