Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Best, Most Challenging Day Yet

On the very first day of my second week as an intern, I was given my simultaneously most challenging and most awesome assignment yet: I was to cover the mayor's luncheon with the valedictorians of the schools in the Boston Public School District.

I was only given about an hour to an hour and a half to prepare myself for this assignment, but I was also working on another much smaller assignment at the same time.  Further, I was running dangerously low on energy.  I had accidentally woken up later than I had intended that morning and had gotten to the office just in time.  Needless to say, my concentration levels were not exactly where they should have been, but I did my best to work through it and get myself prepared.

I tried to formulate questions for those I knew would be there, but I knew I might need other unexpected sources once I got there so I probably would have to think of some questions on the sopt.  I looked up pictures of the Mayor of Boston and the Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools so I would be able to recognize them right away, and I google mapped the route I would have to take from South Station to the Boston Harbor Hotel where the event was being held.

I thought I was leaving much earlier than I needed to, but it turned out other media people had beaten me there and were already busy interviewing sources, taking pictures, and scoping out their spots inside the event.  I felt like I was already behind, and I have to admit, it was a bit overwhelming.

I had been directed by my editor to first finde the media and communications coordinator, but I had no idea what he looked like.  I kept seeing Superintendent Johnson walking around, and I contemplated interviewing her before I found the media coordinator.  He was going to tell me which valedictorians were from Dorchester so I could get interviews with them.  When I finally found him, it was difficult to get his attention because he was busy greeting people and he seemed to know everyone. I finally got hold of him and he gave me a list of schools with Dorchester valedictorians.  At the same time, Superintendent Johnson approached us to ask the media coordinator a question.  It was then that I seized the opportunity to interview her because I knew I might not get another chance otherwise.

After getting the information I needed, I took my position in the dining area where all the other media people were standing.  As soon as lunch began, I was left standing alone in the back of the room.  You see, most of the other media people were from all-encompassing Boston news organizations and they could basically interview anyone they wanted in the room.  I was reporting strictly on Dorchester and would have no idea who the Dorchester valedictorians were until after the ceremony.  I also felt weird about interviewing people while they ate.  After being in Italy for a few months and learning how important meal times were to them, it seemed almost intrusive.  I knew I was wasting valuable time though, and after seeing a few reporters working the room while everyone ate, I decided to go up to a random table and ask if anyone was from Dorchester.

I got lucky.  The valedictorian sitting at the table was from Dorchester Academy and was more than willing to grant me an interview.

I completed my interview with the valedictorian and re-took my position at the back of the room until the ceremony started to see if I could scope out any other possible sources.  I knew I wanted a boy source to get some variety into my story.  It was at this point that I made the acquaintance of a Boston Herald reporter! She was looking for the media coordinator so she could interview a valedictorian who was also a cancer survivor.  (These valedictorians were very impressive, I must say.)  I chatted with her a little, telling her that I was an intern from St. Michael's but am originally from Western Mass and it was only my second week on the job.  She told me she has been with the Herald for about 6 years now and that it was her third time covering the event.  At first glance, I had thought she had been a younger reporter who was more on my level, but looks can be deceiving, I guess.  I was impressed by her ability  to seek out her subjects and interview them without the use of a recorder.  She mentioned to me before she went to interview another source that the Herald is always looking for people in their editorial department, so I might check that out after I graduate.

When the ceremony finally began, I followed another photographer's lead to the front of the room to get pictures of the speakers and eventually the students.  I hid behind a post so I wouldn't be in anyone's way, but I accidentally stood right behind a cameraman.  Though I tried to be respectful, I think I may have gotten too close.  He eventually left his position, giving me more room to work.  I was also able to get decent pictures from my position despite the windows in the back of the speakers providing inconvenient back-lighting.

After the ceremony, I decided to act quickly to get my last few sources since people began to trickle out of the event after the group photo of the valedictorians.  I was supposed to be introduced to Mayor Menino by the media person, but it was too late for that, so I just decided to go up to the mayor myself and ask him for an interview.  At that point, the Mayor was being pulled in a million different directions for photos and "thank-yous," but he was generous enough to give me two minutes of his time.  I also grabbed another male Dorchester student and his mother before leaving.

When I finally left the Boston Harbor Hotel, it was past 2 p.m.  I had devoted three hours to this assignment, and I needed caffeine.  I was still kicking myself because I hadn't gotten to interview the valedictorian who was a cancer survivor and I was under the impression that he was a Dorchester student.  I had watched the Boston Herald  reporter I met get her interview with him and really establish a good rapport, and I was really angry I hadn't seized an opportunity to do the same.  In the end, it turned out he was not from Dorchester and I could make another angle work with the sources I did have.

I did realize something that was pretty cool at that moment, however, and it was the most surreal thing I've encountered in this internship so far: I am competing with the Boston Herald for angles on certain stories. SO cool.

On my way back to the office, I stopped in South Station and got myself a chai latte.  The man who made my latte had an accent, and when he eventually gave it to me, saying "Chai latte?" in an almost Italian accent, I didn't catch myself before I responded with "Si." Realizing what I'd done, I got flustered and had to put all my strength toward pushing out "Thank you" instead of saying "Grazie."  I was very tired, but it might also be a sign that my reverse culture shock is still happening!

Overall, this experience was the biggest learning experience I've had so far with this internship.  I had never been to an event like that completely by myself where I know absolutely no one and have to prepare myself and compete with other media people for interviews and photos.  I followed the leads of a lot of other reporters since I didn't know what I couldn't and couldn't do in that kind of situation.  It was really awesome to be able to cover this type of event during only my second week as an intern.  I'm still in disbelief that I interviewed the Mayor of Boston and casually chatted with a Boston Herald reporter.  I love this job!

If you have any questions about my internship or my life at Saint Michael's College, do not hesitate to email me (, Tweet me (LittleLizzie33) or ask me a question on Formspring (lizmurray3).  I will do my best to answer whatever question you may have.

Study Abroad Re-Cap: Princess Diana?!

This part of my trip was so hysterical it needed its own blog post.  This was truly the funniest and most memorable moment of my trip to Rome.

On our second day in Rome after visiting Vatican City for the entire day, my friends and I decided to walk all the way back to our hotel from the Vatican (pretty much all the way across Rome) instead of taking the metro before dinner.  What better way to see the city, right?

Well... we eventually got lost.  Liz had the map, so we stopped underneath a streetlamp so she could plan out our route, and we tried to help where we could, when suddenly we hear a deep voice with an Italian accent.  "Do you need help?" he asked us.  When he saw the semi-scared looks on our faces he said, "No, no.  I am not a creep! I own the store behind you!" We turned around, and indeed there was a very tiny store behind us that we had not noticed.  So, we decided to let him help us.

I think he immediately forgot that he was helping us because the next thing out of his mouth to Liz was, "Do you have a boyfriend?" She let him down easy and told him she had an American boyfriend.  He then looked at Molly.  "Do you have a boyfriend?" he asked her.  She too had a boyfriend, so she let him down easy as well.  Then his face dropped into a look of awe when he looked at my friend Katherine.

"Mama mia, it's Princess Diana!!!"

None of us had ever made that connection before, so of course, we were all as confused as she was.  Then he started making a big deal out of it. "It's Princess Diana! It's Princess Diana!"  He then started to profess his love to my friend Katherine, even reciting a poem for her, and then declared the two of them married.  It was so uncomfortable, but so funny at the same time.

This random man then began to set out our lives for us.  Of course, he was married to Katherine, and I was his secretary, so I knew everything about them, and Molly was my secretary (later to be demoted a few times and then promoted again) and Liz was.... it just went on and on and on.  We were standing there talking to this man for literally an hour and a half.

He then asked us our star signs.  I told him I was a cancer, and he was overjoyed that I had been chosen to be the secretary because cancers are apparently perfect.  I started to get more kisses on the head and hugs than his own wife Katherine! He told me that I had the protection of the CIA, the FBI and the Italian Mafia as well... and he added that his father was the godfather of his branch of the mafia.  I didn't know whether or not he was telling the truth, but something tells me Italians don't just go around saying those things in public.  He then noticed my big camera and had me take pictures of him and Katherine, and he eventually found out I was studying to be a journalist. He asked where I wanted to work, and I told him The Boston Globe.  Boston is my favorite city, and though I love The New York Times, I would not be able to live in New York City.  Plus, The Globe and The Times work with each other pretty closely, so I'd actually be happy wherever.  Our new friend told us he had "friends" (mafia members) that were part of The Boston Globe and that he could probably secure me a job there.  I just laughed.

At the end of our long... and I mean LONG... conversation with this man, he gave us all his business cards, and then almost as an afterthought he gave us each a gift.  He brought out five tiny plastic coral colored horns, and gave us each one.  He told us to put it under our pillows that night and make three wishes, and our wishes would come true.  He added that we should not tell anyone, but I will already know Katherine's wish without her saying anything because I am her secretary and I know everything. When we were saying good-bye and walking away, he pulled me aside and whispered to me, "Wish for the Boston Globe." I assured him I would, and bid him "Ciao!" and walked away with my friends.
Katherine and her new husband.

He looks SO happy.

Staring lovingly into each others' eyes.  This was his idea, of course.

This is a memory I will keep forever, and I'm sure all the girls that were there with me will too.  It is one of my funniest and best memories from study abroad, and it definitely helps me explain how funny (and sometimes crazy) the Italian men could be.

If you have any questions about my study abroad experience or my life at Saint Michael's College, do not hesitate to email me (, Tweet me (LittleLizzie33) or ask me a question on Formspring (lizmurray3).  I will do my best to answer any question you might have.

Study Abroad Re-Cap: A Weekend in Roma

In February, I had the privilege of traveling with my Study Abroad program to one of the largest and most famous cities in Italy: Rome.  For years I had dreamed of standing in front of the Colosseum or throwing a coin over my shoulder into the Trevi Fountain, and I could hardly believe I was finally going to be able to do just that.
From left, Katherine, Molly, me, Liz and Lindsey in St. Peter's Square. (Photo courtesy of Molly Byrne.)

Since our trip was planned through AIFS, all expenses but meals were paid and all of our tours were given by professors from Richmond University or people affiliated with the school.  It was not quite tourist season yet since it was only late February, but the pick-pockets and vendors were still out in force and the weather still felt like it would in late February in the U.S.  We had three beautiful sunny days in Rome, and we did basically everything we could fit into those three days.  On the fourth day, I decided to do an optional field trip outside the city to the Villas (see next blog post). I went in with really high expectations for Rome, thinking it would be a history double-major's absolute dream to be there.  It seemed like a dream come true for some of it, but I was rather surprised by my opinion of Rome after the trip.

When our bus pulled up to Hotel Portamaggiore near the outskirts of Rome, I did not feel like I was actually in the city.  In fact, I did not even know we were in Rome.  When we got there, we were able to walk around a bit, but Rome is a VERY big city so we were not able to go very far.  It just felt like we were in another Italian city.  Now obviously, my romantic visions of Rome mixed with the exhaustion of waking up early and being on a bus for over three hours got the best of me on that first day.  Since Rome was so big, it was bound to have some disappointing or rather sketchy parts.  My one complaint about the trip was that I wish we stayed in a different location.  Our hotel was nice, but it was located in one of the more sketchy areas of the city.

Beds inside the hotel room.

Hotel Portamaggiore, where we stayed.

On the afternoon of our first day, we took a walking tour of one of the parts of Rome.  Each day we were in Rome, we toured one chunk of the city since the city itself was too large and it was overwhelming to get a group our size from one point to another multiple times per day.  My tour group was led by Peter, my art history teacher.  I'm really glad I had him as a guide because he knows how to make both history and art really interesting and somewhat funny.  As the trip went on, many people caught on that Peter was one of the best tour guides, and his group grew day by day as others mysteriously shrank.
Peter chatting with another tour guide and professor, Angela, before giving the tours on the first day. 

Peter reacts to his own joke about the bathtub. "Children, you will never believe this but this looks just like the bathtub in my hotel room!"

The moment I truly felt like I was in Rome was when Peter took us to the Trevi Fountain.  The fountain itself was spectacular, and of course, my friends and I all threw our coins into the fountain! (You have to throw it in your right hand over left shoulder or else your wish won't come true!)  That day, we also visited the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, the most expensive cade in Italy (Cafe Grecco), the best gelato place in Italy (or possibly even the world!), several churches (well... actually, more than just several... so many I can't remember all of their names), and the Quirinal Palace (or the residence of the President of Italy).
The Spanish Steps.

The Trevi Fountain! 

The best gelato place in the world! (Or so they say.)
Cafe Greco, the most expensive cafe ever. 
The Pantheon.

Inside the Pantheon.

The Quirinal Palace.

The view of the Vatican from the Quirinal Palace.

The next day was almost completely devoted to Vatican City.  I kind of knew what to expect after seeing countless slides of the Sistine Chapel ceiling and the Last Judgement by Michelangelo in my art history class,  However, everything is always more spectacular in person! The entire Vatican, from the museum to the Sistine Chapel, and then again to St. Peter's Basilica, was so elaborate and beautiful! We first saw some Raphael paintings and the fake version of Michelangelo's "Pieta" in the museum.  The real version of that sculpture is located behind bullet-proof glass after the face of Mary had to be repaired from being smashed in by a crazy Vatican visitor.  We then proceeded through a very long hallway filled with gold leaf and frescos to get to the Sistine Chapel.  The Sistine Chapel was spectacular, but I had expected it to be bigger for some reason. People were herded in and out of the chapel by Italian guards yelling "Silencio" and "No photo." Those who were lucky enough were able to snap a photo or two or take a quick video of the ceiling.  Peter then beckoned us to go straight to St. Peter's Basilica.  However, he wanted us to take the short-cut that was only for specific people authorized to take the route - which we were not.  "Just be good little beautiful smiling children," he cooed at us, "and once you reach the stairs, you are safe!"

We all made it through safely with the constant prompting of Peter to keep smiling and make it look like we were supposed to be there.  St. Peter's Basilica was my favorite building of the entire day.  My jaw immediately dropped when we entered.  The church itself was beautifully constructed, but the sunlight streaming through the windows almost gave it a heavenly feel.  Inside the Basilica we also saw the body of a dead pope who had been sanctified. He was displayed in a clear coffin, but his body was covered in wax as sort of a protective cover for his skin.  "Ok now children, go steal your picture of the pope!" Peter said to us when he was done talking about the building.  When we left the church, we walked out into the giant space that is St. Peter's Square.  The only memory I could tie to that place was when Pope John Paul II had died, and I watched on television as the square was filled with people mourning and carrying signs and rosaries.  After lunch, we met back up with Peter to explore churches and a chastity belt exhibit, as well as taste the best coffee in Italy  - or maybe even the world - and visit the gelateria that gives you the most gelato for your money.  When we went to taste the coffee, Peter told us the Queen of England had brought her own water for the coffee makers to make her coffee with.
The fake "Pieta."

Peter explains the Sistine Chapel ceiling to us since we wouldn't be able to talk in the chapel.

According to Peter, the most beautiful boy except for all of our boyfriends! This sculpture was of a man that (I think) Michelangelo fell in love with.

The hallway through which we passed on our way to the Sistine Chapel.

The inside of St. Peter's Basilica.

The dead pope! 

Beautiful lighting in St. Peter's Basilica.

The tour ended and we were left to wander around on our own.  My friends and I found our way back to an art fair that we had seen on our tour, and we decided to explore that for a little while before making our way back to the hotel.  There were street performers and artists all over the square, and I just sat and people watched for a while.  We then decided we wanted to make our own way back to the hotel without using the subway.  We were doing well until we got to a certain point and decided to stop underneath a street lamp to consult the map.  That is when one of my favorite moments of the trip happened. We never made it back to the hotel before dinner.  That night I also had a delicious pumpkin ravioli dish for dinner, and I met my friend Katherine's friends Kate and Araceli.
A musician in the piazza.
Candlelit dinner!
People watching in the square to which we returned.   This guy was begging for money.
Favorite parts of the day from Day #2.

Our favorite Peter quotes! 

The next day was my last whole day in Rome.  We went to the Colosseum first in the morning and then to the Roman Ruins.  It was such a surreal feeling to know I was heading toward one of the most famous sites in Rome after I had done nothing but romanticize about it for years.  I had seen countless pictures of the gigantic circular arena with a chunk taken out of the top.  What they don't show you on the postcards though is the neighborhood around the ancient ruin.  We walked through a neighborhood with some pretty unattractive houses and graffiti all over the place, and all of a sudden, the hulking figure of an ancient Roman colosseum emerged almost out of nowhere at the end of the street.  All this time, I was under the impression that the Colosseum had a more central location in the city or that it was surrounded by roads or nicer houses.  I later found that we walked toward the Colosseum from the opposite side from which the pictures of the ruin are taken for postcards.  The Colosseum was really amazing though, and the inside of it was humongous! Next we went to the ancient Roman ruins.  We were able to see Julius Caesar's grave there, which I had no idea was there.  Peter led us to a particular spot of the ruins and told us, "It was on this spot that Julius Caesar was stabbed to death." I had a similar reaction to when I had toured Boston for the first time and was told I was standing on the exact spot that the Boston Massacre occurred.  It was very shocking.
Walking to the Colosseum.

There it is! 

Me on the inside.

Roman Ruins.

Caesar's grave.

More ruins. 
Roman Senate building!

After lunch we were set free to wander the city for the rest of the day.  My friends and I walked to the Jewish Synagogue and then to the island in the middle of the river and found a nice angled wall to lay upon and sunbathe with other tourists and Romans alike.  We got gelato, which I thought was even better than the gelato we had at the supposed "best" gelato place in the world, and laid in the sun for a while.  We then walked along the river back to the Vatican, and it was beautiful! Our last day was very relaxing.
Walk along the river to the island.

Love locks. 

Where we sunbathed! 

Vatican from along the river.
Looking back, my experience in Rome was quite positive.  We saw everything we could in the three days that we were there, and it was really cool.  I still wish we had stayed in a more central location, and I was also sick at the time so that may have tainted my experience.  Further, I missed Florence while I was away.  Even after only a month of living in Florence, it had become my home, and I was homesick for my bed, the food, and the life I had there.  Someday I'd like to go back to Rome and see if my experience would be more positive - and also to say hi to the Pope since I didn't see him this time.
If you have any questions about my study abroad experiences or life in general at Saint Michael's College, do not hesitate to email me (, Tweet me (LittleLizzie33) or ask me a question on formspring (lizmurray3).  I will do my best to answer any questions you might have!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My Newest Adventure

Before I reflect on all my journeys while I was studying abroad and catch up on all of those blog posts, I thought I would update you all on my life right now.  This summer I have the great privilege of being an intern at The Dorchester Reporter in Dorchester, MA (basically right in Boston). I am SO excited to be writing for an actual newspaper and to be learning from reporters who are actually in the business.  I had done one internship before this as a senior in high school with my local newspaper, so I went in knowing a little bit about how an internship works, but every workplace is different.

It all started last December when I was freaking out about what I was going to do this summer.  I live in a very small town, so it is very difficult to find much to do during the summer.  For the past two summers I had worked at Val's Pipe and Packaged in my town.  The owners were very generous to give me a seasonal job (even letting me work during the winter months) and I am very thankful for all they have done for me, but I figured this summer, it was time to move on.

At first I was aiming for The Boston Globe, and while I was trying to network my way in, I did not realize I had to fill out an application as well.  I then became so busy with my fall semester that I lost track of things until November.  Rule #1: Always check for applications and application deadlines. In December, I was really worried because I had no prospective internship options, and it was looking like I would be spending the summer in Adams again after studying abroad in Florence for an entire semester.  At the very end of my December break, I got in contact with my cousin who is a First Amendment lawyer for The Boston Globe.  He put me in touch with a veteran Globe reporter who he knew had a lot of contacts.  The only problem was that this decision was made so quickly and so late that I only had about 2-3 days to pack and get ready for studying abroad before moving down to Somerville, MA, with my Uncle for my last few days in America.  I met with both my cousin (who I had never met previously) and the Globe reporter, along with a few other people who would be good contacts for the future.  It worked well enough that I left with contact information for a possible newspaper for which to intern and contacts who could help me along the way.  My uncle and my cousin really helped me a lot in this process, and I am really grateful to them.

I contacted The Dorchester Reporter and sent them my resume and some clippings of my past work immediately.  I wanted to get at least a foot in the door before going abroad since I knew communication might be tricky while there.  A few days into my stay in Siena, I set up a Skype interview with the editor of the paper.  The internet in Hotel Athena was terrible, and I was afraid I might lose him during the skype conversation.  A few things said were fuzzy because of the connection, but I was given the internship right on the spot.  I was ELATED.  I asked my roommate about a million times if I heard the editor correctly and actually did get the internship.

Now, this summer I am living with my uncle in Somerville and taking the T into Dorchester four days per week to write for this newspaper.  I am having a blast so far.  The paper is completely family owned and run.  It was started in the 1980's by my editor's parents as an alternative to The Boston Globe, which did not cover as much Dorchester news.  The Dorchester Reporter is a weekly newspaper, and according to my friend who lives in Dorchester, the residents love it.
I had my first day at the paper this past Monday.  Upon going in, I was really nervous because I didn't really know what to expect.  Different newspaper, different rules. I was also expecting to be started out with editing press releases.  I got thrown right into the fire instead.

My editor took me on my first assignment, for which I only had about an hour and a half to prepare for.  But even so, he only told me the name of the business and what was happening that day.  I had little idea who would be there or who I might have to interview.  My story focused on a "Cash Mob" in Dorchester who was aiming to have a lot of people go into a new candy store in downtown Dorchester (A Sweet Place) and pump money into the local business to bolster the local economy.  I started researching the Dorchester Cash Mob and the business and started to formulate some questions so I could be at least a little prepared. It was really fun to meet and interview everyone during that assignment.  I was thrown a curveball when my editor decided to add another business who was not being cash mobbed, but was still new to the street, into the article.  I had to think on my feet and try to come up with my questions on the spot to get the information I needed.  I'm usually not very good at going in completely unprepared, but I think I did pretty well.

Today was my second day, and I've already written two stories.  I have two more days this week and I will write two more stories.  I have never reported and written stories completely in a day because I have always had to wait on interviews or have had schoolwork get in the way. This is a much different atmosphere as I am completely focused on this from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day I'm in the office. I love it!

So, here are some tips for getting an internship that I learned through this process:

1. Be organized. Make sure you know all the things you have to do to apply.  This includes cover letters, resumes, applications, letters of recommendation, etc.

2. Do not discount any connection you might have for the internship you are going for.  If they can't help get you the internship, they might be helpful just for advice.

3. Be persistent. Follow up with the possible employer, even if it is just to say "Thank you for the interview." Don't let them forget you (but in a good way).

4. Do not procrastinate.  The internship will not wait for you.

5. Explore every option.  Do not just shoot for one thing because what you may brush off as an internship you do not want or cannot get may surprise you.

I made new friends on my first day of my internship too! Check out the photos on the Cash Mob blog to see me in action!

If you have any questions regarding summer internships or my life at Saint Michael's College, please do not hesitate to email me (, Tweet me (LittleLizzie33) or ask me a question on Formspring (lizmurray3).  I will answer each question as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.

Ciao :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sorry for the Lack of Communication


I'm sorry for the lack of blog posts in the last month or so of my adventure.  It has been a crazy time, and now that I am back in the US, I am trying to collect my thoughts and write about each of my experiences. This was probably the greatest experience of my life so far, and I consider myself lucky to have experienced all that I did.  Each memory, good or bad, is special.  I hate to sound corny, but the experience as a whole was life-changing, and I grew so much as a person.  I haven't been able to stop talking about my experiences for the last few days.

It's definitely nice to be home, but it's going to be an interesting adjustment to life back in the states.  Look out for a ton of new blog posts coming your way in the next week or so from my time in Rome all the way to the end of the experience.

As always, if you have any questions regarding my time abroad or even about my life in general as a student at St. Michael's, please feel free to Tweet me (LittleLizzie33), Formspring me (lizmurray3) or send me an email ( with your question.