Around this time a year ago, I’d just received a large envelope from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA regarding the Washington Journalism and Media Conference. I was nominated to attend the conference during one of two sessions that were to be held the following July. I didn’t know it at the time, but this conference would change my life. I’m so incredibly blessed that I had the opportunity to go, and that I made the decision to say yes. Today’s post is an open letter to anyone and everyone who has been nominated for WJMC (or wants to go, you can nominate yourself here), because I wish I’d been able to find something like this when I received that big envelope! This letter addresses all the thoughts I remember having upon receiving the nomination and will hopefully help you see the greatness that can come from attending the conference. Enjoy!
I’m sure when you opened the fancy gold-stamped letter you thought it must be some type of scam. You’re doubting that you’re that good of a writer or public speaker that you should be nominated for an apparently prestigious journalism conference. You wonder who on earth would have nominated you for this, or how the conference found you. First, let me tell you it most certainly is not a scam, stalk the #wjmc2017 hashtag on Instagram if you don’t believe me (I know that’s what I did).
“Okay, I guess this is cool, but I don’t really think I’m interested in journalism,” you’re probably thinking. I most definitely didn’t know I wanted to pursue a career in journalism until I received the envelope. A few weeks later the idea of fashion journalism struck me and I’m now more sure of my career path than I have ever been. I knew then that I needed to apply. I needed to know if journalism was a career I could see myself not only working in, but happily working in. If a career in journalism takes up even the smallest thought in the back of your mind, talk to your parents about going to the conference, you won’t regret it.
The idea of going to a new place knowing absolutely no one might seem scary. You think everyone there will be a million times more delved into the field of journalism or politically active than you are and they will look down upon your uncertain-but-willing-to-learn mindset. When you arrive you’ll see that the reality is that correspondents come for a plethora of reasons; some have been positive they wanted a job in broadcast journalism since the first time they watched the news, others were forced by their parents to attend after receiving the nomination because they thought it would look good on college applications, a few recently discovered a specific field of journalism they’re interested in (like music or fashion) and came in hopes of finding out more about it, and the list goes on. Closer to the conference you’re likely to be thrown into a handful of group chats and when you actually get there it’ll strangely feel like seeing old friends again. By the time you leave at the end of the week you’ll be weeping over these people you’ve only known for a week (hear me now, believe me later). Trust me, the “I won’t have any friends there” thing is not a valid excuse to decide against going.
Okay, but how on earth are you going to afford it? I know it’s not cheap (although it’s definitely not overpriced for the experience and journalistic education you will attain there) and George Mason does too. They encourage fundraising and their website is full of resources for ideas on how to fundraise (including letter templates to potential benefactors) and you might be surprised by how many people you know that would love to contribute to something that can have such a great impact on your future.
You have no idea how lucky you are to have this opportunity. You will never be in such a welcoming, loving environment filled with open-minded and determined people who share your interests as the one the Washington Journalism and Media Conference provides. You will learn so much. You will make friends that will last forever (I just sent one of my close WJMC friends that I text daily a birthday gift a few weeks ago). You will be shy at first but by the end you’ll realize there’s no better place to be yourself than at the conference. WJMC will change your life and I’m so jealous you get to go now, I’d give anything to spend another week at George Mason with my WJMC friends.
I hope you make the right choice and apply. Thanks for reading!
P.S. – If you’d like to hear more about my experience at WJMC, you can read my seven daily WJMC recaps from the conference here.