The Independent is hosting four young journalists in its summer fellowship program this year. We asked them to introduce themselves by describing their experiences of emerging from the pandemic into their summer with us. They are already delving into stories about everything from goats to swap shops to local elections. We are happy to welcome them to our community and to our project, and, we hope, to a lifetime of good stories. —Edward Miller
Talking to Strangers
I spent my final semester of college at my grandparents’ house in Eastham instead of in Clinton, N.Y.
When I needed a break from staring at my laptop, I’d walk outside, stare at my phone, and pick the weeds in the driveway with my bare feet. When I left Grammy and Pop’s for graduation in mid-May, those weeds were the only sign of spring here, save for some buds dotting the treetops.
Two weeks later, everything was green. The whole Cape seemed to have re-emerged while I was gone.
My first assignment for the Independent was to report on a walk in Provincetown organized by the Homeless Prevention Council and attended by about 100 mostly maskless people. I hadn’t spoken to more than five strangers during those months of quarantining at my grandmother’s. I had to remind myself that talking to strangers was now my job.
Ben Glickman — another summer fellow — and I wrote an article published in this week’s edition, tying the walk in Provincetown to the broader housing crisis affecting the Cape. As we worked on the piece, I thought a lot about my own housing situation. Ben had to brave the seasonal rental market. I didn’t.
But that’s only because I’m living with my grandmother, who inherited a cottage from her father, who, in 1952, got a $3,000 mortgage (that would be $30,000 in today’s dollars), which he used to buy an acre and a half of land. Perhaps that money could get him a year-long rental in today’s market. If he could find one.
I look forward to providing the Independent’s readers with coverage of this topic and many others.
From: Conway, Mass.
College: Hamilton College Class of 2021
Studied history with a focus on race and gender.
Embracing the Unfamiliar
For most of the 427 days between when I was sent home from college in March 2020 and when I received the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, I was not scared of contracting the virus. I’m young and had a small pod. I was not sad, either — despite many of my friends being hundreds of miles away. More than anything, I was bored.
It’s not that I had nothing to do. But my surroundings were painfully constant. Almost every aspect of my life was being conducted from the same chair, in the same room, through the same screen. Classes were on Zoom, and that’s where I met with my colleagues at Brown’s student newspaper; I saw my friends on FaceTime; I interviewed sources for stories over the phone.
I began noticing the intricacies of each scuff on the wall in front of my desk, the unique path of each zig-zagging crack in the paint. I learned card tricks from YouTube.
My summer working with the Independent is my first opportunity since the pandemic began to experience a new place with new people. Sitting in the same place isn’t an option — I’m going to be talking to as many people as I can, in as many new places as possible.
This is my first time ever on Cape Cod. Everything here is entirely unfamiliar. I’m a little intimidated — I get a pit in my stomach thinking about all the Outer Cape know-how that I’m missing. But I’m embracing that feeling as a sign that the pandemic is behind us.
And, after two weeks here, I can happily report that I don’t have the faintest idea what the cracks on the wall of my Truro rental room look like.
From: New York, N.Y.
College: Brown University Class of 2023
Studying political science, pursuing a certificate in data science
Following the Threads
I round the corner of my house and there he is: paws draped over the back of the couch, his head resting between them, nose pressed against the window as his eyes track my car.
Today, I’m going into the real world, no Zooming involved. Thrilled to play violin close enough to other musicians that I can actually hear them and feel the vibrations. Thirsty to interview people in person, experience their expressions, see the inside of a newsroom.
Re-emerging from the pandemic feels a lot like freshman year of college — I’m heading to new places where I am eager to talk to others but don’t want to impose.
I have two masks in my bag because you never know. I hope that conversations with my dog have kept my social skills in reasonable shape.
Quarantine pets. What about all the pets people adopted last spring to lessen their loneliness? Are those pets still wanted? Are shelters taking in a larger number than normal? I’m only at the end of the street and these thoughts have all gone through my head. How do I get anything done, you wonder? I’m not always sure.
But I do know this is why I love journalism: the smallest, most routine things spark curiosity, and if you pull at a thread, you find a story. Untangling one, you learn, say, that vexillology is the study of flags, so, of course, you talk to a vexillologist. And from there, you have endless questions. You might not know much about something, but you have an excuse to talk to someone who does.
Your fourth-grade teacher was wrong: Betsy Ross didn’t stitch the first American flag.
College: Principia College Class of 2022
Majoring in political science and music
No Longer Playing Blind
During the early months of the pandemic, some of my high school friends and I started an online poker game. We played late into the night, three, sometimes four times a week. When we all returned to school last fall we took the game with us, and our nucleus of a few players quickly expanded to include more than 50 people, including a first-year law school student in California, an Egyptian living in Chicago, and a tournament bass fisherman who always stayed up late, even though he would be hitting the water at the crack of dawn.
Online poker was an escape from the monotony of pandemic life. And it was awesome. No limit Texas hold ’em is a beautiful game of risk management, psychological combat, momentum swings, betting strategy, and, of course, luck.
Life during the pandemic was a lot like playing a hand blind. It seemed like nobody — from government officials to neighbors to school administrators — had a clue what they were doing. We had no control.
When things opened up, I took a three-state cross-country graduation tour that included Minnesota, Idaho, and western Massachusetts. The usual theme of the ceremonies, speeches, and parties took on new meaning: anything is possible! This class is going to change the world!
Even though I’m skeptical of any single high school class’s ability to alter the trajectory of our planet, I couldn’t help coming home with a sense of optimism. It doesn’t feel like I’m playing a blind hand anymore.
I’m moved in with my grandmother in Wellfleet and excited to get after it for local news this summer while enjoying my favorite things about the season here: fishing, driving down dirt roads with the windows down and country music on the radio, getting lost on new trails, swimming under the stars, and tossing the football at the beach.
From: South Deerfield, Mass.
College: Tufts University Class of 2023
Studying political science, focusing on American politics