As the plethora of “Welcome to Virginia” and “Virginia is for Lovers” signs dwindled, I gradually headed through the heart of D.C and into Georgetown, one of the most esteemed colleges in the world. The program I attended, The School of the New York Times, was designed to strengthen my political knowledge and give me the tools to improve interviewing and have conversations with people of different interests, as I am interested in the field of journalism. I spent hours on my application, sourcing multiple letters of recommendation, report cards, past papers and articles for my school paper, and much more. Out of 900 applications, only about 60 of us were accepted. 

As I walked into an opening ceremony in which one of The School of the New York Times directors was explaining the DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) values that the program held. He went on to talk about the below 10% acceptance rate as well as the prestige of the university, concluding with some of the sights we would see, which included The Capitol, The Supreme Court, The National Archives, as well as several history museums. 

After chatting with members of our group, I headed to my dorm, and from there was shocked with the gorgeous view of downtown. My roommate, Brooks, and I clicked right away, and throughout the two week course became close and fast friends.

The next morning, we headed out to our respective classes. Both of my instructors were writers for the New York Times and well accomplished. Throughout the coming days, we discussed everything from gun restrictions to abortion rights to vaccination. Although we kept the debates respectful and fact based, there was always a variety of opinions. With a classroom of around 10, it allowed for longer speaking times and a chance to get to know your peers through their viewpoints. 

During the first week, we visited the National Archives, which consisted of thousands of books and documents, including the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. The library was huge and full of grandeur, with impossibly high ceilings, ornate statues and mosaics covering nearly every wall. We also viewed the National Museum of African American History as well as the Smithsonian American History museum, both of which were filled with detailed exhibits and relics dating back to many centuries ago. After each site visit, we returned back for an afternoon class session with our teachers, in which we discussed what we saw and controversial topics surrounding each.

On the day Roe v. Wade’s decision was released, we were walking past the Supreme Court at that very moment. Our group interviewed both sides asking for their opinion. We saw Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as many other political figures.

My experience living in Georgetown and traveling around D.C was incredible, (even if on one outing with my friends we were stranded at a metro station for three hours). The people I met, my teachers, guest speakers and the places I saw, shaped my experience into being a wholly immersive program that improved my writing skills. I learned how to adjust my questions to the people I spoke to, and was given tips on how to remain fact-based during heated discussions. I received tips and tricks from the writing specialists, helping me become more concise and less wordy. They focused on the inverted pyramid style of writing, and with our final project being a 1000 word analysis on a controversial politician from our state following this format, we ended the session with a well-paced finish. The SONYT was an incredibly selective experience that I am so glad to have been chosen to attend, and I know I will cherish the memories I have made for a long time.

– Grace