I never imagined a summer internship at the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle would be located at my parents’ house in Bethesda, Maryland.
But with the pandemic, it wouldn’t be wise to travel to Wisconsin. A remote internship was the next best thing.
At first, I couldn’t help but wonder what I was missing out on by reporting remotely. I knew I wouldn’t experience the dynamics of an office, the thrill of on-the-ground reporting, or the freedom that comes with living away from home.
I had only been to Wisconsin once — for the job interview — and I worried about accurately covering a community I didn’t know and wouldn’t be immersed in.
There were a few missteps in the beginning. I forgot to give stories local angles. I mixed up eastern and central time more frequently than I’d like to admit. I learned the hard way that “Mequon” should sound like “Meh-kwan” — not “Mick-wan.”
But as I wallowed in self-pity, the Jewish community in Wisconsin demonstrated resilience. Stories about virtual dance classes, museum tours, concerts, and story times showed me the importance of flexibility and that community never stops.
I started to think about the silver linings: no commute, the ability to conduct interviews from the comfort of my couch, and extra bonding time with my grandmother, who had come to live with us for the summer.
In the broad scheme of things, I was incredibly lucky to have had a remote opportunity, healthy family members, and a safe home.
And the journalism aspect wasn’t lost. I interviewed all sorts of interesting people I never otherwise would have met, wrote stories about topics ranging from Democratic National Convention delegates to Jewish motorcycle clubs, and received terrific one-on-one mentorship from Editor Rob Golub.
Once I stopped obsessing over the counterfactual — what a summer sans pandemic would have been — and started living in the present, the situation didn’t seem so bad.
I even started to get the hang of Wisconsin quirks. A pro tip I learned from Rob: If you ask someone where they’re from, and they say Milwaukee, ask again. They could be from a suburb like Fox Point or Whitefish Bay.
In the end, there’s no sugar-coating it: adapting life to COVID-19 is hard. It’s okay to be upset about what’s been lost, and validating those feelings is necessary.
But it’s also important to make the best of what we’ve got. While I didn’t always heed this growth mindset, I talked to people who were — whether making the best out of a virtual experience, advocating for systemic change in the pursuit of justice, or helping a neighbor out.
From them, I realized that what we have is still an awful lot.
Hannah Feuer is a sophomore at Northwestern University in the Medill School of Journalism. She interned for the Chronicle from mid-June through August.