Departing Home, Finding Journalism

Nerves raced up and down Emma Long’s body and butterflies filled her stomach as she walked into a classroom for multimedia at the High School Journalism Institute at Indiana University the summer of 2016. She observed the people there: the girls, the guys, the nerds, the kids who didn’t really want to be there, and so on. She heard the quiet tap of fingers on keyboards and defined beat of the soft music in the background. Everything will be just like normal; nothing has changed, she thought. Except, for the fact that, almost everything about her life had changed.

“It was kind of weird the first time I came back. When I was with my friends, it was weird because they just kept asking basic questions. But when I got to HSJI last summer, it was kind of refreshing because nobody knew me, so it was like a fresh start,” Emma said.

Emma, 17 and an incoming senior in high school, lived a very fast paced lifestyle, for she had just spent the last seven months living in Dubai. At HSJI in July of 2016, she was on her first trip back to United States since January. Emma was born in Georgia and lived there for three years, then moved to North Carolina and lived there for 13 years, and then moved to Dubai during her sophomore year of high school.

“It didn’t really come as a shock when we were moving because it had been in the works for a long time. My parents got the idea from my best friend’s family, then they got interested in moving there, too. The idea first came into existence when I was in seventh grade, and I was all on board because I didn’t really have that many serious connections to people yet. So when we were definitely moving my sophomore year, I really didn’t want to leave because I had a great friend group and my life was great. ” Emma said.

Emma’s dad had gotten a job with a company in Dubai, so that was the main reason her family of four moved. She remembers the move as more of gradual acceptance, but when they were leaving it was an overwhelming feeling of loss and nostalgia.

She attends the American School of Dubai with fellow Americans, Canadians, Indians, Arabs, and more. She says it’s made her a lot more culturally aware because of all the diversity at school.

“It’s crazy how many opportunities I get at school. Here, I never would have gotten to travel as much as I do now, it’s insane,” Emma said.

She’s able to participate in many school activities, as her school in North Carolina didn’t have sports or many extracurriculars. She is on the speech and debate team, where she does serious duet and comic duet with a partner for each. Emma was also on the tech crew for the musical at her school last year, “We will Rock You.”

“For the musical, I was able to use the skills I had learned last year at camp from multimedia, because we had to work with video, so I was able to edit them,” Emma said.

Last school year, Emma helped with her school’s yearbook. This year, she hopes to improve the yearbook by making better design templates and taking back better design skills, so the school might not criticize the staff and book as much as they had previously.

“I knew I wanted to come back to HSJI this summer, so I decided to take the design class this year to help with yearbook. This year it was easier to make friends and I wasn’t as nervous, and besides, I already knew some people from my class last year,” Emma said.

In a similar situation as Emma is 14-year-old Matti Stone, who has been living in South Africa for the past three years. Matti is taking part in the news writing class at HSJI this year.

Matti Stone stands inside the lobby of Spruce Hall right before dinner on July 13 at HSJI. Matti was in the news writing class, hoping to take back the skills she learned to start her own school newspaper. “I don’t have any journalism background, I like writing fiction a lot more, but I wanted to start this,” Matti said.

Matti was born in Oregon in the United States and lived there for 6 years, and after that, Matti and her family moved to Egypt for three years, and then to South Africa.

“When I was in third grade, my step-dad got a job with the government with USAid, so we move to different countries every few years,” Matti said.

Matti attends the American International School of Johannesburg and lives in the city of Victoria. Her mom came upon the HSJI camp at IU in a book where it was mentioned, and she thought it would benefit Matti to attend this summer.

“To be honest, I really have no experience in journalism, I just thought it would be fun to start it. I’m more of a creative writer. I’m trying to start a newspaper or literary magazine at my school for next year, so I’m taking back everything I’ve learned here to help and benefit my news writing if we start a newspaper,” Matti said.

Like Emma said, Matti plans to use the skills she’s learned here to take back to her school life. She also said that her school is really diverse as well, with Americans and all kinds of Europeans.

“In some senses it’s a little weird coming back to the United States because I have a lot more freedom here. It’s a lot safer here, there’s far less racial tension, you all drive on the opposite side of the street, and there’s a lot less violent crime,” Matti said.

Mattie also recalled that in South Africa, remnants of apartheid are still very prevalent, even after so many. She says looking around South Africa It’s really sad to see all the hate and racist remarks.

“If I don’t open my mouth to speak with my American accent and I speak with my regular accent, I am automatically assumed to be Afrikaner and so I’m assumed to be racist, which I’m not. So it’s really hard having to live there and be assumed racist when you’re really not,” Matti said.

On the other end of the spectrum, Emma feels a lot safer living in Dubai than here in the United States.

“I like to describe Dubai as like Washington D.C. or New York City except a lot safer. It’s very touristy and you can always tell the tourists from who actually lives there. I could leave my wallet, phone, and keys on a table in a public place and they would be totally fine when I came back. When my mom was here last week she left all of her things sprawled out on a table in a restaurant, and I was like, ‘Mom, you really can’t do that here,” Emma said.

Despite living overseas, both girls feel at home whenever they come back to the United States. HSJI camp has allowed them to take back journalistic and design skills to improve their staffs, their school community, and their overall journalism background.

“If you ever get the chance to travel to Dubai, do it. It’s such a beautiful, diverse place and it’s an amazing place to be. Don’t be afraid to ever step out of your comfort zone. This camp ha
s been one of the best experiences of my life; I really wish I had known about it before this year, because it was my first and last year,” Emma said.

“I think that everyone should travel as much as they can. In general, it’s such an eye opening experience. You should always travel with an open mind, and be aware of all the different cultures and that not every place is America,” Matti said.