The EIJ Conference Experience

Written by: Sarah Eskildson

When I hear the word “conference” my thoughts immediately ask “Sitting in lectures outside the required class time for fun? No, thank you.” Before September 17th, I viewed conferences as boring events only over-achievers attend to one up their peers.

However, my perspective of these events changed after attending the Excellence in Journalism conference September 17-20, 2016.

Over the summer, my journalism advisor contacted me to ask if I was interested in attending the EIJ conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. My initial reaction was ‘not game’, but a small part of me desired to take on the opportunity.

Thus, I found myself boarding a plane with four other students I had only briefly acquainted myself with prior to the trip. After we landed, our advisor, Professor Amy Ritchart, greeted us at the airport to take us to the hotel.

The first day of arrival was a free day to go out an experience NOLA because the city is unlike any city in the United States. The culture, history, and people are unique and bring life to the area.

Although we only had a few hours to experience New Orleans, we were in awe of the beautiful culture. A few things we accomplished that day included: drinking café au laits and eating beignets at Café du Monde, riding the RTA to the French Quarter, and eating turtle soup and jambalaya at Mother’s, a little hole in the wall kitchen.

The next day the conference began. Everyday, from morning to night, a networking expo was set up in order for students to reach out to businesses related to their communication field of study.

EIJ created a schedule of breakout sessions each hour. Typically, five sessions were schedule at any given time, and students would attend the one they were most interested in. The breakout sessions covered a wide range of topics to enhance young journalist’s work, from covering domestic violence, Islam and transgender communities to the top facts about freelancing.

My favorite sessions were Covering Domestic Violence against Native Women, Race, Religion and Politics, and Generation J. The speakers were nothing like I expected; they engaged in their audience and communicate on the student’s level.

The speakers in Generation J were one-year journalists, and their vulnerable stories of their first year mistakes offered the audience to understand and learn from the dos and don’ts. Also, the Race, Religion and Politics seminar offered intriguing facts on how a journalist’s reporting in an area should reflect the actual community and not over exploit one’s background.

The highlight of my conference was speaking to a journalist who writes stories of Native women who have been domestically assaulted, abused, or raped. Her career interested me, since I have a huge passion to advocate for women who are victims of sexual abuse. After introducing myself, we exchanged contact information and have been communicating after the conference.

My experience was different from the four other students I came with, but all of our experiences were positive and left an impact on our future path as journalists.

The conference was much more than sitting in a lecture room with hundreds of students. The EIJ conference in New Orleans, provided an opportunity to build community with fellow students, experience a new culture outside of my hometown, and create relationships with professionals in your specific field to help develop your future career.

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