This year’s Princeton Summer Journalism Program (PSJP) was built on virtual connections. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, participants couldn’t convene together on campus, and there was no space to build in-person connections. A 10-day program was, with little notice, transformed into a 7-week one, forcing us to adapt in order to make the most of our summer. But program participants are a resilient bunch, and students from a variety of backgrounds united under one common love: journalism.
PSJP empowered students from backgrounds underrepresented in journalism to harness our unique life experiences in order to tell important journalistic stories.
Our cohort faced numerous trials and tribulations during our virtual summer program: poor WiFi connections, different time zones, Zoom mishaps, and the distractions that came with the raging chaos of COVID-19. Sitting at our desks, on our beds, and beside kitchen tables did not align with our initial expectations of PSJP. We overcame Zoom fatigue, sore shoulders and backs, and eyes burning from the bright screens of our phones, computers, and tablets. Sitting at home, without much contact with the outside world, became more difficult as the summer went on. Yet the students and counselors of PSJP prevailed, finding ways to stay connected instead of simply missing out and mourning what could have been.
Through weekly Zoom sessions and a group chat active almost 24 hours a day, we shared our doubts, dreams, and goals throughout the seven-week program. We attended lectures that exposed us to a variety of subjects and workshops that taught us about different types of journalism. And each week we put our new skills to the test, writing news stories, opinion articles, features, and more.
With support from our peers, interns, counselors, and PSJP alumni, we were able to come together as the world around us seemed to be falling apart. Though the pandemic, emerging social movements, and economic upheaval impacted our individual communities in different ways, we formed a community of our own, a haven protected from the unrest. We came together not knowing the people and family we would become. Now, we leave with a network of counselors who have supported us from day one and what are sure to be life-long friendships.
On August 11, our lives will go back to normal—well, our new normal. We will enter our senior year with a newfound perspective on both life and journalism. Despite having to endure a global pandemic and a plethora of other conflicts, we were still able to immerse ourselves in a transformative PSJP experience. We now leave the program having gained invaluable knowledge and bonds strong enough to last a million lifetimes.