The first “real world” test for cherubs is the interviewing assignment – the journalistic equivalent of setting 84 baby deer loose. It’s the first exposure to the challenges of journalism: talking to strangers, facing rejection and staying under a word limit.
My strategy: saying hello to people I passed on the street and judging their reactions. I gave an old man walking home with his groceries a soft “Hi.”
“Hi!” he said and beamed. Bingo!
In a 20-minute interview, I discovered that he used to work for the Chicago Symphony. I play viola, which sparked a conversation on the lyrical beauty of the instrument. We gushed about bossa nova, a niche genre of Brazilian jazz. He pointed to my soccer jersey; he played in high school, too.
I nervously checked my phone every so often to see if I could squeeze in another interview and dinner before the 7 p.m. lecture. I couldn’t. But I had learned to be brave.
It pays off in journalism and in friendship. I met three of my best friends here by sitting next to them at lunch, cracking a joke and joining their conversation. At first, I just gravitated toward whoever laughed at my jokes. Now, after long nights playing Jackbox games, sharing Spotify playlists, texting in French at 2 a.m. and taking hundreds of photos, I’ve finished these four weeks knowing how to talk to strangers – and make everlasting friends.