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Luan, Student

Luan is a Summer Academy student from Eureka, California and took our course, 'Visual Storytelling.'

Why did you decide to study at The School of The New York Times?

I decided to study at The School of The New York Times because I had heard about the school from a friend that I met through a Montessori Model United Nations and my friend had heard about it through her school. Upon doing a bit more research, I found myself very interested in the courses offered by this program. I also decided to study at The School of The New York Times because I wanted to be in an environment that is meant to cultivate students who ask questions, who seek out challenge and embrace it. I wanted the opportunity to meet new people. Not just new people but people like me. People that share my interests but also people who don’t share my interests. I find that conversation is refreshing when it is with people who share the same interests, but I find that conversation can sometimes be more refreshing and interesting when it is with people who don’t share your interests.

Which course did you take and why?

I took the Visual Storytelling course at the New York campus. I think that I was drawn to this course in particular because my classes at school this last year incorporated a lot of methods of visual storytelling, infographics, posters, etc. My experience with visual storytelling however was limited to just infographics and posters. This course offered a more in-depth look at visual storytelling. To be able to try out other forms of visual storytelling was definitely a compelling component. Other than that, I enjoy writing; more specifically, telling a story. I also enjoy drawing, though I tend to favor writing over drawing. Writing is something comfortable to me, comfortable in the sense a walk in the forest or on the beach with a good friend is. Drawing reminds me of something more precise, building a house for a specific purpose perhaps for a metaphor. I am a perfectionist which means that words come easier to me than images; it’s easier to tinker with sentences than it is to tinker with an image. And words are more open to collaboration. But I wanted to try something new. Why not? That’s the question. Two words that can be expanded. Why not combine drawing and words? Why not try to work outside of your comfort zone? Why not…?

If you had to name one thing that you learned from your time here, what is that one takeaway that will stay with you?

I think one takeaway,if not the biggest takeaway, from the time I spent at The School of The New York Times is that I don’t need to second guess myself. I can build and share my ideas without needing to feel like I have to swaddle them in excuses to try to cushion them from any type of criticism. My [ARA] was the one who snapped me out of that mindset. She told me that I didn’t need to make excuses. Advocate for your ideas because they are yours. There is no judgment. I definitely feel like I forgot that I was in a room full of students who were in the class for the same reason: to develop their skills as a story-teller, to learn from other people who share the same interests, both social and creative. By the end of the course, I felt like I became much more self-assured when it came to articulating ideas and giving and receiving feedback. And I feel like the self-confidence came from realizing that I don’t need to second guess myself.

What was your favorite site visit?

This question is a bit difficult. I think my favorite site visit would have to have been the sketchbook library in Brooklyn. The reason that that site visit was my favorite is because that was the first time that I got a sense of what my final project would be. Being at the library was incredible because of all the catalogued creativity. Each sketchbook was based off a different idea and used a different medium. There were a variety of different lines, different pencils, different inks. Each sketchbook was unique in its own way. I really liked that aspect in particular. There was so much individuality at the sketchbook library. Everyone starts with the same book, the same 32 pages of blank paper. But how the pages are filled depends on the artist.

Who was the most memorable guest speaker?

While all of our speakers were quite memorable, I think one of the more memorable speakers was Alexandra Zsigmond. Before she came to speak, our class had talked about different ways to convey things that may not have a set physical image, such as thought processes or fears/anxieties. Personally speaking, I found her work really fascinating. Drawing something such as the way I think never occurred to me. Not only did Alexandra Zsigmond’s work stand out to me, but what she said during our talk stuck with me. She told the class to “be aware of what you want to learn.” I feel like this stuck with me because awareness is everything. Awareness of space, of people, of yourself. To know what you want to learn seems like a superpower to me. I mean we have an opportunity to learn— not only at this program but also looking at our futures. And to be able to learn is incredible as it is. If we know what it is that we want to learn coupled with the fact that we are in a position where we have access to excellent resources and mentors (and I know this is cliched and not totally true) I feel like we can do anything.

What were your faculty like?

My faculty was witty, intelligent, creative and helpful. Walking into the class on the first day, I was unsure as to the type of person that my instructor would be. My instructor was everything that I hoped she would be and more. Talking with her one-on-one or in a classroom setting, I always felt like she was listening attentively and actively working to find a new creative angle. She talked about working with others as well as working in a group of individuals as talented and creative if not more so than herself. I think that her candor when talking about working for The New York Times as well as her role within the publication also spoke to her knowledge on Visual Storytelling. She showed us some of her work. The Diary of a Song project was one example that stuck with me in particular. During one particular class session, she explained all the components of an infographic styled article that she had worked on. All of this information was well explained as well as fascinating to me.
My ARA was quite similar to my instructor in that she was always listening and trying to create a new angle. Whenever I hit a mental block, all it took was one conversation with my ARA to push past it. Like my instructor, my ARA showed the class some of her work and taught us how to use lighting to our advantage, to think about the subject we were shooting, what angles would be more effective. There was so much laughter and conversation in that class. I feel like all of that conversation came from, in part, the fact that during both one-on-ones and class conversations, both my instructor and my ARA always spoke to us as equals. I feel like the rest of the comfortable environment came from the fact that our faculty were extremely creative forces. They were just as excited as we the students were to be creating and sharing ideas.

What does The New York Times mean to you?

365体育备用网址To me, The New York Times means collaboration, innovation, and creativity. I think opportunity can be thrown into that list as well. I think of what my instructor spoke about when she talked about her role at The New York Times. On all the projects she was a part of, she had a whole slew of people who each had unique roles that were needed for the project to become the version shown to the people. That requires communication and collaboration. In my mind, reporters and really all people working at The New York Times are constantly in a state of innovation. The news landscape is constantly shifting as new stories come and go, but it is also shrinking. More and more of what my generation is consuming is contained to our phone screens. To work in the news landscape now requires innovation to make the news more accessible on the phone screen and on the internet. Likewise, innovation is also required when it comes to presentation of news. My generation’s consumption is not only limited to phones, but it now really seems to favor images over words. A picture can tell a story of a thousand words, but what is that story really about? That’s where you have to get creative. How can you tell this story using both words and pictures? How can this story be made more visually appealing so that younger generations might be encouraged to check it out? Innovation and creativity go hand in hand. Finally I threw opportunity in because I think that The New York Times is an opportunity. It is an opportunity to educate oneself, whether it’s on politics or on theatre. It’s an opportunity to share a voice. To share opinions and to report objective truths. The New York Times is innovation, creativity, collaboration, and opportunity.

What does it mean to you to study in New York City?

365体育备用网址For me, studying in New York City means that I can be closer to a center of culture. New York is a prime example of cultural collision. Where else can you walk through several city blocks and find food from Ethiopia and Japanese-Mexican fusion tacos sitting across from each other, parallel to a shop that sells tiny donuts (6 donuts for $6!) If the food scene isn’t enough to tempt you, there is so much to explore in New York; you could visit the city 10 times in a row and still not have seen everything. For me, part of studying in New York meant an increase of exploration. Another part of studying in the city meant more resources. There are places that we had access to such as Brooklyn, Midtown, the Upper East Side, etc., that were all different but all offer a different look into the same place. That ties back to the cultural collision. The city is formed by the different perspectives, people, cultures that reside in the city.

What do you think you want to be when you grow up?

365体育备用网址That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? What do you want to be when you grow up? I’m sure there could be thousands if not millions of essays, poems, perhaps even interpretive dances on the very question. But that isn’t the point. The question is for me and I am here. Sitting in front of a computer screen. If I’m being completely truthful, I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. My class actually talked about this question. Most of my classmates knew what they wanted to do, at least what college they were looking at. I’m afraid that I am not like them; I’m a rising junior. I don’t know what colleges I’m interested in, what major I want to take- do I want to minor in anything? I’m not sure exactly what I like or what I’m clearly good at. But I do know that I like to learn. And I don’t want to grow up, not completely. I think that the unbiasedness of our childhood and the creative strides we make during those years are incredibly important to our lives. Why should “growing up” be any reason to leave those qualities behind?

365体育备用网址This answer will be vague, you’ll have to forgive me for that. While I don’t know what occupation I want to work in, what classes I want to take to help me get to that occupation, what college I want to go to, I do know this. I want to be someone who listens to others, someone who works with other people, and someone who knows what they want to learn. I want to be someone who writes, who draws, paints (*insert art medium here). I want to be someone who tells stories but also has a story. I want to be someone who is innovative, creative, strong, confident, aware. I know this might not answer the question- especially if the question is asking what job I want to find myself in 20 years from now. But I’m finding that the question itself is not really “what do I want to be when I grow up?” but rather “who do I want to be when I grow up?”

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