My life came to a grinding halt on Friday the 13th of March. I’m not a superstitious person, but that is when I left New York City. I was not meant to be home until the end of this year.
I cried when I saw the email: the School of New York Times was shutting down and all students were to move out immediately. COVID-19. We all cried. We hadn’t even been in there for two months! We were loving it so much, we couldn’t consider leaving. We loved what we were learning, the incredible people we were meeting, exploring the city in our down time and the feeling of air under our wings.
What’s more, we’d all given up so much to be there. We had gone through the rigorous application process and been accepted to spend our gap year investigating the world through a journalistic lens with the most highly regarded newspaper around! Many of us had worked multiple jobs to afford it. We had put our lives on pause, and travelled – like me – to the opposite side of the globe. But we were just a tiny portion of the people whose lives have been dramatically changed by COVID-19.
Upon reflection from back home in Sydney, I am so grateful for the experiences I did have in my short spring in NYC. To be taught by esteemed journalists such as Andy Isaacson, and Liz Robbins – and then have your writing edited by them propelled me years ahead! To have guest speakers almost everyday like the travel writer and influencer Oneika Raymond, the professor and refugee lawyer Carmen Rey, and the 52 Places Traveller for the New York Times, Sebastian Modak. We also visited Dapper Dan’s studio and interviewed him! We explored the District Court for the Southern District of New York. There were so many excursions and workshops, and we still had so much more to do.
I did have a chance to make a few videos, including What does New York mean to you: a Traveller’s Perspective, which we were asked to make in the first few days as a way to practice being confident and interview strangers.
I was very proud to whip up this video in just one night — called How to Spend a Day in Astoria — after a day exploring Astoria in our unit on travel journalism. My first taste of creating content for a fast paced news cycle!
When we first received the news that our spring in New York City would be cut short, I didn’t know what to do. I thought I would look for work as a nanny, maybe continue the travel I had planned for the second half of the year. I had bought the flights, and it would be very hard to get a refund. When my mum mentioned that my degree at university back in Sydney had only started that week, I was horrified at the thought of going home and exchanging the year of dreams for academic life. But as I read the news in Europe that some borders were beginning to close, Australia – with my family, friends and a chance to study – was becoming an excellent option.
Thankfully, my university (the University of Technology Sydney), allowed me a late entry because of my circumstances and I started one day after arriving home! I have now begun my double degree in self isolation, being a Bachelor of Communication (majoring in Media Arts and Production and Journalism) and a Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation. I’m wishing everyone health and safety in this time of global unrest, and am grateful that I did get a Spring, no matter how short, with the School of New York Times.