Wesley Ryan

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Blake Hansen

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Blake Lancaster

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Katie Undesser

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Kaya Danae

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I was initially completely stumped on where my beat would go. I was thrilled to be focusing on refugees as that closely relates to the profession I want to pursue, but wasn’t sure what stories I could come up with locally.

After reaching out to multiple LBGT activists in Salt Lake City, I was incredibly lucky to meet Connell, who put me in direct contact with an LGBT community living in a refugee camp in Kenya. This experience really showed me how important it is to be persistent and make contacts. I definitely went out of my comfort zone introducing myself to people, but it was good preparation and I have been pleasantly surprised with the community interest in this crisis that is happening across the world.

After getting over my self doubt (I had a really hard time establishing myself as a real journalist) and being very critical of my own writing, I think I am starting to find my voice. This is a topic I am very passionate about, so that definitely made it easier. I do want to improve painting a picture for my readers, but since I was just relaying information I heard, that was difficult for me to do in an honest way. I imagine that when I’m on the ground experiencing what I am covering, that will be more plausible.

There were two aspects to this beat that were discouraging that apply to any and all stories I will cover in the future. I had interviews fall through, pushed back, and I had a lot of my contacts never respond to me. I do enjoy the search and challenge of gathering information, but I know that I will be on a shorter timeline in the future and that’s something I’ll need to practice. The other aspect I found difficult was separating opinions and facts. All of the interviews I conducted were very emotional and I was tempted to pour my heart out onto the story. While I did have a call to action at the end of each story, I tried very hard to make objective pieces. I am looking forward to have the opportunity to work on opinion pieces, though.

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Scott Funk

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When I first started this semester, I didn’t know what to expect. I was returning to school after taking a semester off and had the fear that my writing would be sub-par because of my break. When I found out the topic for our beat for the class, that fear spiked through the roof as I knew it was topic I was uncomfortable with.

Throughout my whole life I have avoided politics and anything related to that. I have never understood the topics that get talked about, nor have I ever taken an interest. So, when I heard that our beat was on refugees, I feared that I wouldn’t make it through the class — I didn’t even know what the definition of a refugee was.

As I learned the definition, my fear was softened just a little bit, but was still there because of the lack of confidence. I didn’t know where to begin. It wasn’t a topic that I knew anything about, and frankly it wasn’t a topic that interested me. As I began my research, I wanted to find a topic that I could relate to or had at least some interest in.

For my first story, I wrote on the New Roots program, which was centered around gardening and farming — which is something that I used to have an interest in so I figured it might be something I could relate to. And as I started learning about refugees and hearing their stories, I began to become more interested in their lives and their well-being.

As I grew in that interest, I centered my second story around Adjustment Groups, which are groups that are designed to help refugees from a mental standpoint become adjusted to the U.S. While doing this story, Gerald Brown told my class the significance that the involvement of interaction between Americans and refugees have on their lives. Because of that, it peaked my interest in becoming more involved.

I centered my enterprise and final story around a volunteer program called Know Your Neighbor. While writing this story, I had the most interaction with refugees and most eye-opening experiences. I’ll be honest — growing up I was one of those people who when I saw someone who was different than me, I wondered why they dressed, looked and acted differently than I did. I never once asked myself what their background or story might be. Today, every time I see someone who may, to me, fit the description of a refugee, I ask myself what their story might be and I’m curious to find out. I also learned a valuable lesson while attending a volunteer orientation meeting.

While at this orientation a volunteer told a story about a refugee whom she was working with. In this story, she described a conversation that she had with her refugee friend. Within this conversation, the refugee made the comment: “I have too much here.”

She was referencing her home, which was described by the volunteer as empty. But to the refugee, coming from the circumstances of facing death and persecution in her home country to now being in America, she thought she had everything – and in this case, too much. That was an eye-opening experience to me that made me appreciate the items and freedoms that I have in my life.

As a result of reporting on refugees this semester, I have found a new respect and understanding for the refugee community. I look at them differently. I understand them better. I don’t know everything about them, nor will I ever, but at least now I know something. I am no longer blind to circumstances within my own community. My plan is to continue to stay involved by becoming a volunteer, learning more and to hopefully  gain more eye-opening experiences that can change my life, for the better.

 

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Zach Carlson

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