Washington Journalism and Media Conference at George Mason University Changed My Life


Ananda Kobierowski, Staff Photographer

I am originally from a town in Connecticut. The school system is small, and basically all the students know one another. I had made best friends in first grade, where you can be yourself with no pressure.


These friends stayed with me until middle school, when I moved to South Carolina. I still keep in touch with many of them. It was a different experience in South Carolina, walking into a school with 4000 students and not knowing anyone.


I have always been pretty introverted, but this made me super shy and concerned about anything I said to anyone. Although I joined multiple organizations and clubs, I still sometimes felt alone.


My social shyness changed this summer. Last fall, I had received an offer letter to a journalism program with George Mason University. I got accepted to attend the Washington Journalism and Media Conference. When I received the letter, I had recently been on my first college visit and knew that I needed to get some experience in the field. I begged my parents, telling them that I needed to go to this conference. After considering the opportunity, they agreed.


Despite how excited I was about this amazing program, I was slightly nervous, mostly about making friends. The whole drive from South Carolina to Virginia, I was thinking about conversation topics in my head.


Once I got there, I unpacked my things, and was faced with meeting my fellow correspondents. I was encouraged by one of the interns who said she had wished that she met people sooner. It was hard for me, but I made myself meet people. I talked to people in my suite, people in the elevator up to the dorms and even sat down with someone and had a conversation.


Some of the best friends I made were in my group. My group and I went to super interesting places like the Newseum, Natural History Museum and the National Art Gallery, and were basically together the whole conference.


It took me about a day, but I found some incredible people from all over the United States. We shared meals, met famous journalists and explored our nation’s capitol together. Everyone just accepted me for who I was, and we were all just excited to have met each other and be friends.


On the last day, we were sitting for the last speaker of the conference, and I got separated from the girls that I normally sat with. We all begged our junior faculty advisor to let us sit together. Two of my friends ended up squeezing me in the middle of their chairs to make sure I was included.


I finally realized that I made friends by just being myself: kind, compassionate and helpful. I understood that my friendship matters to many people. It was a really encouraging experience.


My loyalty and dedication are important, not just for friendships. I know now that these qualities are going to help me to help others tell their stories. I know that I can encourage others to be themselves, and not just to be shy because it feels comfortable.


I want to include others in my community and school and allow them to feel that they belong somewhere. I understand how important it is to include others and build relationships with the people around you.