Twenty-nine days after landing in Greece to report on crisis and culture, my first article is finally published on our class website.
The feeling is similar to when I thought I got below 50 percent on my computer science final but actually earned a 64; for a while I doubted the story would ever be published at all, so the fact that it is finally up (even so late in the game) is truly exhilarating.
As my first experiment with international reporting, this was one of the most difficult stories I have ever had to tackle. I have been working on the story since early in our first week in the country, and it seems as though every week saw a new catastrophe in its coverage.
All of the elements that make up any article – solid numbers, personal anecdotes, expert opinions – were nearly impossible to scrounge up. This is in part because in Greece, each church is very individual so there is not much collective data. I had to rely on workers at individual churches, as well as regular churchgoers and outside sources, to try and give me any information they could.
Another contributing factor is that in Greece, people speak Greek. And in Orthodox churches, where the average age is much older than general cities, it is borderline impossible to find people who even speak choppy English.
With every turn my story took away from its original idea, its future became bleak. But it began to form a new angle, one that I did not predetermine but that flowed naturally out of the interviews and observations I made while visiting churches and talking to people. And, in the end, all my hours of work and every frustration came together to result in what I think is a fairly good piece about the role religion plays for Greeks during the economic crisis.
I learned a lot from this experience and took many lessons with me to my following interviews. I was more direct with translators, made sure I took down more details, asked all the necessary questions and took note of everything that was happening. My experiences reporting on the church built a resilience in me that got me through weeks of reporting in a country with a massive language barrier.
Now, as I enter my final six days in Greece, I still have at least three interviews ahead of me and two stories to complete. My first drafts for both are due in the next two days. My current workload is heavy, but I am excited about the content that I am producing and newly energized by the publication of my first piece. The impending homesickness creeping into my stomach and clouding my brain will have to be pushed aside as I finally complete the stories I have been laboring over for a month.