The past two days have really just been about getting to meet everyone in our class and in our faculty. Yesterday was all about the internationals and today we met the Americans. We learned that we are the 104th class to walk through the doors of the J-School which was founded by joseph Pulitzer in 1912. He was a Hungarian-born foreigner in America who became an innovator in the industry and is now one of the godfathers of journalism with one of the most coveted awards in the industry, named after him. The school has gone from a class of about 79 (if I remember correctly) all Americans; only 12 of whom were women to a 2015 class of about 200 with 40% international students and 2/3 majority of students who are women.
It is without a doubt that I can say I am privileged to be at Columbia University. I am living a dream that most Americans fail to realise in their own land. The dream being to attend an Ivy League institution and learn from great people in the industry you wish to pursue. On top of that, living that particular dream in the concrete jungle that is New York. I wake up every day and look out of my window just to check that I’m really here and really doing this.
Many might not understand why I chose to do my Masters internationally when we have perfectly good schools in South Africa. While this may be true, I believe that learning from people who are from different countries is very important. This to me is not even about learning in the traditional sense of being at university. I mean the school of life, where you engage with people whose experiences are completely different from yours. In the last two days I have had enriching conversations with people from across the globe. While so far I have only scratched the surface, I have already learned from them.
One thing Thuli and I keep talking about is the freedom in the American culture. We’ve seen people wearing crop tops to work as if that’s the most normal thing in the world. We’ve seen women wearing short shorts with their butt cheeks hanging out with legs that aren’t skinny and do not go on for days. Guess what? When we saw these things – we were the only ones who flinched. People here are so comfortable with who they are that they do not seek the approval of those around them. It’s so refreshing and it inspires me to just live the life I want to live without basing it on standards that are enforced by a society that technically only exists because of location. Someone very wise told me that this year would definitely change me. That I would walk out of this with an outlook on life that will never be the same. He said I would be walking out of the box that I have been in my entire life and be challenged to become a world thinker. Small things have happened and I am already just soaking up everything like a sponge.
We have already been told that this is probably going to be the toughest years of our lives and I am so excited to be so busy it hurts. I am excited to be thrown into the deep end in surroundings I am not at all familiar with and in a culture I don’t understand at all.
Today the lesson that I learned, which I technically already knew was that although we live in a world where nearly anyone can tell a story; not everyone can tell a factual, truthful story in a compelling way. While many of us tend to get cynical about the industry I think being here is going to revive my zest for life and the dreams I have to bring about change no matter how small the scale.