Gaining New Insights Through the New York Times Summer Journalism Program

The summer between two school years is a critical time that presents an opportunity to enrich your day-to-day life, whether it be with the wisdom gleaned from novels, with that new trick you’ve taught your dog, or, in my case, with the love of learning and inquisition gained from a two-week summer journalism program in New York City. 

The kebab stand: A local food vendor near the Fordham University Lincoln Campus.

It was late December and after several hours of researching summer academic programs tailored to high school students, I came across the School of the New York Times’ Pre-College Summer Academy. Upon reading the program’s description and briefly browsing the courses offered, I knew that I would not forgive myself had I not applied.

Needless to say, the year that I spent working with CDS’ Office of Community Relations, writing blog posts, website articles, and creating Instagram stories while being supported and encouraged by Ms. Sillcox and Mr. Lawton, certainly played a role in my selection of the program. A couple of short essays later, my application was off and I, thinking it was a long shot, did not bring myself to imagine that three fateful months later, an email welcoming me into the “International Journalism” course would arrive. 

The steps to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Summer came soon and before I knew it, I was standing at the doors of the Fordham University Lincoln Centre campus Law building, flushed with excitement and exhausted from a 12-hour-long bus ride. The two weeks that followed my arrival were filled with learning, discovery, and bumpy subway rides. 

My professor, Clyde Haberman, a distinguished former New York Times international reporter who worked primarily in Jerusalem, Tokyo, and Rome, taught a class of about 20 students. Classes filled seven hours of our days in the city and site visits and guest speakers helped to enhance the learning process. 

Floormates, residential assistants, and myself from Floor 13 of the Residence hall.

On the second day of the program, our group travelled to Manhattan’s Chinatown, reporters’ notebooks in hand and interview questions at the ready. We were given two hours to explore the neighbourhood and conduct interviews with locals about their opinions on the Hong Kong protests and the US-China trade war. A trip to the Committee to Protect Journalists was made, where we were enlightened on the dangers that foreign reporters face while uncovering truths about crises worldwide.

We also welcomed acclaimed and knowledgeable guest speakers, such as David Rhode, the online editor of the New Yorker, and Anne Barnard, a New York Times journalist whose expository piece, “Inside Syria’s Secret Torture Prisons: How Bashar al-Assad Crushed Dissent,” offers a chilling insight into the horrors of hidden Syrian detention centres. A written assignment in the form of a news article followed each of these visits and speakers. Students were encouraged to volunteer their articles to be read and criticized by the class and professors. 

Apart from the incredibly unique chance that I was given to meet outstanding journalists and ask questions to gain unmatched insight into a profession that I’m interested in, something that left an impact and resonated with me was the sheer talent and intelligence that I was surrounded by daily. The students in my class were so invested in learning, so knowledgeable about the current state of affairs, and so interested in the world around them that being in such an environment has left me seeking similar intellectual stimulation in my life back home. 

Some of my classmates and I on an Academy-wide boat cruise along the Hudson River. 

I feel great gratitude that I was given the rare opportunity to attend a program of such calibre and quality. All the experiences that I had the immense privilege to enjoy during the two weeks I spent in New York City this summer, whether it be listening to one of my professor’s tales of foreign reporting or strolling 5th Avenue under the pouring rain, will remain as constant reminders of the importance of seeking a change of scenery, ideas, and perspective. 

Story by Christina Chkarboul ‘21