After four flights, three hours in the customs line, overweight luggage, a cancelled flight and two long years of waiting, I’m excited to share that I have finally touched down in New York City, where, for the next three months, I’ll be living and studying in The Big Apple with The School of The New York Times.
After being unable to attend this program in 2020 as part of my gap year, this moment has certainly been a long time in the making. But as I draw towards the end of my first full week in the city, one thing is for sure – it has certainly been worth the 838-day wait. (But who’s counting?)
What am I doing here?
I’ve received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of a program with 29 other aspiring writers, photographers and creatives who will be taught and mentored by some of the world’s leading journalists, thinkers and educators from The New York Times.
Using different sections of the newspaper as the framework – New York City, Arts & Culture, Sports, Books, Fashion and Politics – each week we will be analysing an important social, cultural or global topic through a different lens, led by instructors and journalists who are experts in these fields.
I’ve joined a diverse group of talented young people from almost every corner of the world – including Brazil, Germany, Hungary, the USA, Canada, Italy, and Mexico – and despite only being one week in, I’ve already met some lifelong friends, in particular my Hungarian roommate Luna, who has travelled from Budapest.
As the only Australian, not only is everyone fascinated by my accent, but I’ve also been tasked with the responsibility of debunking some of the common myths surrounding our life back in Aus – no, you won’t step on a snake when getting out of the plane or have ‘critters’ in every corner of the house…
What’s been happening this week?
Monday marked the first day of orientation which saw us meet our fellow peers and Student Life Team alongside the journalists and industry experts who will be leading the different section studies of the paper for the duration of the program.
On Tuesday, we had the day to familiarise ourselves with the city (which for me, meant trying not to get hit by the crazy traffic when crossing the road), before attending an evening Q&A panel with three New York Times journalists – Alicia DeSantis (Deputy Editor, Culture), Larry Buchanan (Graphics Editor) and James Estrin (Staff Photographer and Writer). We had the rare opportunity to gain insight into their careers and ask questions about their work and writing process. (I think we were all a little awe-struck!)
Come Wednesday, we dived straight into our first section – New York City – led by New York Times journalist, author and NYU Professor, Helene Stapinski. Throughout the duration of the week, we were tasked with different assignments, including writing profiles on our fellow classmates and constructing a descriptive piece based on a silent walk we took around New York City.
We also visited the diverse neighbourhood of Astoria, Queens on Thursday with the intention of writing a food review on a restaurant of our choice (I had some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever tasted!) before participating in another Q&A on Friday; this time with renowned New York Times food critic, Pete Wells, who walked us through his process of reviewing and writing about food.
I promise it’s not all work!
The one thing everyone said to me before leaving home was, “make sure you have some fun too!” Well, I’m happy to report that we have all indeed been basking in the chaotic excitement of being in the city that never sleeps. There’s been bowling, museum trips, markets, exploring surrounding neighbourhoods and, of course, the ultimate goal of trying to master the subway system (I’m sad to say I’m still quite far away from being able to tick this one off the list!)
Already, I’ve simply been amazed by the talented people that I’ve had the opportunity to meet. Now, as we prepare for the second week, I can’t help but think how New York City really is a concrete jungle where dreams are made.