Two days before my deadline, I was struggling to pen this narrative. I decided to take a break and go on a stroll to clear the clutter of thoughts in my head. As I stepped outside my building, I felt the wind blow off my cheek on an exceedingly gray Iowa City Monday.
I took my usual late afternoon walk route: North Side, downtown, and back home. I plugged my earbuds in and blasted Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” — my favorite mood booster. I walked down Bloomington Street until I found myself at the crossing of Clinton Street.
As I stood in front of Burge Hall, I remembered standing in the same spot four years ago. A rather anxious 17-year-old Aadit was dropped off by an airport shuttle after a long flight from Mumbai. I had two pieces of luggage stuffed with essentials, a face with a confused look, and a heart fired with ambition. I realized how much I’ve grown since then.
I continued walking down Market Street until I reached Artifacts — my favorite Iowa City store — and perhaps my first non-newsroom Daily Iowan memory. It was sophomore year and I had just begun working as a reporter when I had expressed my interest in antiques to then News Editor (and now best friend) Charlie Peckman. I cannot pass Artifacts without thinking of my antiquing dates with him and my friend Maddie. Charlie, along with co-News Editor Naomi Hofferber, had a crucial role in making a sophomore Aadit — a rather reserved person — feel confident about himself.
I walked down Gilbert Street and turned right on Iowa Avenue. I saw the Old Capitol and remembered Google Image-searching “Iowa City” from my parents’ apartment in India after being accepted. I decided to sit on the steps for some time before heading home.
As I passed Joe’s Place, I couldn’t help but be reminded of editor-in-chief Marissa Payne. I remembered the countless late-night Joe’s visits after sending pages to the printer. Marissa has an unwavering commitment to serving the community through storytelling. Perhaps the most dedicated journalist I know, I’m so proud to call Marissa one of my closest friends.
I continued walking. As I sat on the Old Capitol steps facing Madison Street, I looked at the journalism building, and my gut sensed a where-it-all-started feeling. I remembered the first time I ran into journalism internship coordinator Paul Jensen while I was working at the Food for Thought in the library. His once-a-week order of hot chocolate is still stuck in my memory. I remembered how he recruited me to work as a student ambassador and give tours of the journalism building to prospective students.
I cannot thank Katelyn Weisbrod enough for helping me find my niche and teaching me everything she knew about the DI’s website operations. She taught me how to interpret analytics, use WordPress, analyze data — and above all — to believe in myself.
DI writing coach Jenn Wagner taught me to advocate for myself. After meeting her for the first time, she gave me her phone number. “You’re alone in the U.S.,” she said. “Call me anytime if you need anything. I’m here for you.” I cannot thank her enough for everything she has done for me.
Publisher Jason Brummond has been a wonderful mentor, and for me, acting digital coach, essentially. Always willing to listen to ideas, Jason truly believed in me, gave me the freedom to experiment, pitch digital projects, make mistakes, and was there to say, “It’s OK, we’ll try again.”
Upon realizing that I had homework due that night, I decided to head back home. On my walk, I remembered I could still feel the warmth when my mom hugged me at the airport when I left India. I would not have been half the person I am if it weren’t for the confidence and values my parents instilled in me. They’ve always encouraged me to be myself and chase my dream.
I thought about the first time I walked into the DI newsroom with a puzzled face and a dream to become a television news anchor. It’s here that I discovered my true passion and fell in love with digital journalism and coding.
There’s no doubt this is an uncertain time. More so as an international student, my life in the U.S. is dictated by visa restrictions and immigration laws set by leaders in power. Even in these tough times, I’ve been able to create a place for myself at the DI. My work has received recognition — the DI has challenged me to aspire and encouraged me to live my dream.
Related: Making America home: My 8,000-mile journey from India to the Heartland
Here, I found people who love me for who I am and make me feel like I belong. As a foreign national, this sense of belonging is important — now more than ever. Coming from a country thousands of miles away, I’ve been able to call the DI my home.
I entered my apartment and shut the bedroom window that I had left open. It had gotten quite chilly. I sat down on my saucer-shaped folding chair. I looked at the two pieces of luggage under my bed that I had brought with me from India — stuffed with essentials. They’re going to have an awful lot of memories to carry with them, wherever they go next. As I put a closing “div” tag to my Iowa chapter, thank you, DI.