My proposal for Spring 2017 was preliminarily approved today, which means I’m heading to Greece in May and June, 2017. The plan is to take 15-20 students to cover everything from the Syrian refugee crisis to immigration to the economy to Greek culture. We start in Thessaloniki for two weeks, and then head to Athens, where my colleague Mike Beaudet, chief investigative reporter for Channel 5, will join us for three more weeks. I’ll concentrate on the print side for our online magazine, and he’ll take care of the broadcast side. It’s going to be an amazing experience. (My family will of course tag along too for some of it.) Stay tuned for further developments on what we’re planning and the team we’re assembling. It’s been a spectacular summer for Geoff, Lila, Cal and me, marked by both lots of adventure and plenty of rest. (See a few pictures below; click any picture to view full size.) And now, I’m very much looking forward to planning for what’s to come.
This is about the time of year I’d be posting an entry about my plans for travel this Spring. The semester is almost over… grades are due in two weeks… The Summer 1 session starts in about three weeks and on the first day of that is always when we leave. But, I decided to take a year off in 2016 for a couple of reasons. One is my daughter is going to a studio arts school in Central Square just for her 8th grade year, and I wouldn’t dream of pulling her from that for five weeks because, well, she would never allow it. Two is I started a doctorate program this spring and needed to stick around to figure out how to balance the work from that with my own teaching load. And three is that I want to really think about where to go next. In fact, I’m thinking of holding a brown bag lunch with some students to brainstorm with them about what we should plan for. The spectacular thing about these Dialogues is we can go almost anywhere. Turkey, Italy or Greece to report on the refugee crisis? India to report on poverty? China, Russia? Cuba is for sure on my short list. Needless to say, the next journey will be as transformative as all the others – for me, and for the students I am lucky enough to bring. So, stay tuned. And if you’re in my orbit, stop by or get in touch. I’ll be gardening, trail running and just bouncing around Concord for the next three months and then in Maine for the month of August. Ciao for now. Carlene (I’m leaving you with a few recent pictures – click below to see larger images – of some fun stuff we’ve been up to.)
Well, it’s been exactly three weeks since we’ve returned and I am finally ready to write the post the marks the end of our 2015 program. For some reason, I am always a bit paralyzed when I return from an extended stay abroad. It takes me too long to reconcile my budget (which I just did in the last two days). It takes me too long to get back to the recommendations I am supposed to write for various students’ graduate programs, or scholarship applications. It takes me too long to trudge though the pending emails that require some action from me. I think I do this because I’m in a bit of shock when I come back – shocked that all that preparation came to fruition, shocked that all that work is finished. And shocked that I will never have the benefit of being with this specific group of people again.
I have always marveled at what these students are able to accomplish in just five weeks. They come terrified. New territory, unfamiliar language, no point of reference. Their assignment is to produce three fully realized articles – to the same standards expected in the classroom at Northeastern. It doesn’t matter to me that this isn’t easy. My attitude about that is they knew what they were getting into, and they have to execute their work, to high expectations, no matter what. Some of them grumble. I overhear this and that tale of melt-downs, tears, crises of confidence when they question whether they should even be doing journalism. Some don’t grumble and in fact write in their personal reflection blogs that they relish how difficult it is. But regardless, each one of them – to the person – succeeds. Take a read through their smart, probing, colorful, fascinating and top-notch stories as evidence of that. Now that I have some distance, and scroll through their pieces three weeks later, I can see that even more vividly than before.
The day after we returned to Boston, I wrote as much to them. I always think my final note to students will take a long time to craft. But it never does. It just sort of flows because how I feel about them and what they did is rightthere – right at the surface. Here’s just a bit of what I sent this time:
As I said to you in the classroom on that final day, each one of you has proved that you can handle anything. There is no assignment that can be thrown at you at Northeastern, or on a co-op, that will be harder to pull off than this. I promise you that. So you should go into the rest of your program here with great confidence and satisfaction in what you can do. I am so very, very proud of you. And to be honest, I am quite sad as I sit here alone in my home office, while everyone else in my house sleeps, to say a final goodbye. (I will be in touch about grades and stories still pending and SIM cards and on and on, but that’s not what I mean.) I will miss all of your funny stories about karaoke and ants and failed swimming attempts and ambush interviews that forced you to do what you thought you couldn’t. I will miss seeing you flipping out about not getting a source, and then showing such profound relief when you ultimately nailed what you needed. And mostly, I’ll miss being witness to the lasting friendships I saw develop that I know mean something to you.
Really, though, mostly I just miss them. At the airport in Boston, as I was watched everyone climb into cabs to go home, one said to me “I love you.” And just like that, with no worry about professional distance, or teacher-student separation, I said it right back. Because I do. I love her, and all of them, too.
… and from there, I will post my final thoughts. But on this, my last morning in Madrid, I have a few lingering favorite pictures to share as I ready for my long journey home. Stay tuned for a proper blog post to follow…
Dispatch from Geoff about Cal tonight:
“Cal is on a blackberry kick.”
I am so fried after 18 hours of almost steady editing that I, for the last five minutes, have been sitting here wondering: “How did Cal get his hands on a Blackberry?”
… they’re gone again… After two weeks in beautiful Madrid, the family boarded a plane at 12:30 p.m. Spain time headed back to Boston. Safe travels… I’ll join them – along with dog Spot and Moe, Twinkie, Owl and Buzz Lightyear (the chickens) next week.
Well, the newsroom situation has not been ideal in Madrid. For a First World country, there seems to be a lack of First World internet access. In fact, we had to ditch our previous newsroom last week and find a new one because we can’t afford to lose even one day to no or weak internet. But happily, Arturo, our handler, was on it, and within an afternoon, we were in new digs. The real story though is how adaptive the students have been. It’s not easy to sit there while the dreaded rainbow wheel tells them there’s not enough bandwidth in the room to check email or edit stories. And it hasn’t been easy in this much smaller classroom (below). In fact, today, when they weren’t tripping over each other in cramped quarters, they were sitting in stairwells and hallways to do phoners with expert sources across Spain and abroad. But they did it, and with not a word of fuss. In fact, they were pretty funny in there, cracking jokes and teasing each other in that affectionate way born from familiarity and comfort. That in part was the goal of this program: To learn how to get these incredibly challenging articles done under incredibly challenging circumstances. To read their personal reflection blogs is to sometimes read about their defeats and their frustrations. But I hazard a guess that they will also look back on this and realize what they have accomplished. In the end, the language challenges, the challenge of unfamiliar territory and customs, the challenge of the heat and the homesickness and the constant beating of the deadline drum, have meant nothing. Or, maybe those things have meant everything. Because what all of this proves is that they can get it done no matter what. They have proved how versatile and strong they are. They have proved that they can be a thriving, functioning international press corps. And that’s exactly what I wanted to show them they were capable of.