WJI 2015 Day 7: Being a stranger in a strange land

May 25, 2015

Day 7

Heather Bridges

“How embarrassed do you want to be?” asked Mindy Belz, World editor and world traveler.

International reporting, and reporting in general, hinges on a series of awkward moments.

As Mindy spoke to the class, we learned that journalism necessitates a constantly changing environment, whether abroad or down the street. You’ll encounter the unexpected. You’ll encounter embarrassment. You’ll encounter awkwardness.

Perfect, I thought. My life is awkward. I’m used to this.

But then Mindy said something I had never considered before.

The awkward moments serve as cues. Instead of focusing on the awkwardness, focus on the “otherness.” These moments point to the fact that you’re in a new situation, a new world—so be curious, ask questions and let the moments fuel the bigger story.

I’ve had my fair share of awkward reporting moments, and I’m quickly realizing reporting never gets less awkward. But being told that awkwardness can fuel a story? That’s reassuring.

Even more, I think I can safely say the awkwardness of journalism factors into why we, my classmates and I, pursue the craft. When describing the idea of cues, Mindy said these moments “tell you you’re on a voyage of discovery.” We crave constantly changing environments and situations, because along with the change comes discovery. And that’s exciting. 

The following statement isn’t quite so exciting: do your homework.

It’s the best way to prepare for foreign situations, as Mindy explained, and it’s the best way to translate these situations for readers.

It’s also a phrase we’ve heard multiple times this week. I just graduated college, and I’m realizing I’ll be doing homework for the rest of my potential career.

It’s okay. This is the kind of homework I enjoy.

On a side note, I’ve enjoyed seeing a different side of each classmate. To explain, sitting in a class together doesn’t reveal much about individuals. But the in-between moments, just living life together, allow glimpses.

Today’s moment was a Memorial Day barbecue at World CEO Kevin Martin’s home. After dinner, a group of us played soccer in a nearby cul-de-sac—laughing and yelling ensued. We played until we were breathless, but none of us wanted to stop.

We’re back in the hostel now, diligently working on assignments. And maybe we’re a little more tired than usual, but today was a good day.

For more information:

World Journalism Institute