Journalism conference leaves sour taste in student’s mouth
Article: Autumn McDowell – Sports Editor
While many of my current colleagues are getting ready to head to NASH, the student journalism conference put on by the Canadian University Press, I am being reminded of what a terrible time I had at said conference two years ago.
Yes, I was one of the lucky ones to take part in the Victoria, “barfapalooza” of 2012.
When I first heard rumours about this conference, I thought that it would be a great opportunity to network, meet new people that shared my passion, learn a few new tricks about my job, and most importantly, have the chance to party in a new city, thus getting to know my then colleagues’ better and drunker sides. But that is not how my five hellish days in Victoria went.
Despite one member of my paper instantly losing their luggage, I remained unrealistically optimistic that this would be the only thing to go wrong on this trip, but I was very wrong. Upon checking into the hotel I was suddenly informed that not only would I be sharing my room with two strangers, I would be sharing my bed as well. At least I knew who I would be sharing blankets with, but that didn’t make it any easier. If you can imagine the horror on my face waking up in the middle of the night to my former co-worker mere centimetres away from me, mid-drool, that was just the beginning, but even that I thought I could probably get past.
One of the reasons that most student journalists go to the conference, whether they want to openly admit it or not, is to party. But party, I did not. No one from my paper wanted to go out, to my unannounced surprise, and if they did, they would much rather gallivant Victoria with the cute girl from another paper than me. After the first few nights, getting dressed up in my pre-planned cute outfits ready for a night out only to be shot down, I slowly began to lose confidence that this trip was going to be any fun at all.
And so I decided to come to terms with the fact that no one wanted to party, they would rather skype their boyfriends, study, or bang people in their rooms. But, someone would surely go out for lunch with me, wouldn’t they? The answer is no. Day after day, I walked the streets of Victoria by myself, and sat down to a meal with only myself and pretending to read other schools’ papers for company. No matter how confident you are, you always feel like a loser eating alone.
But, despite my lonerish behaviour, I still had the guest speakers to look forward to; surely they wouldn’t ditch me, right? NASH is famous for always landing a lineup of stellar speakers, and this year I could not wait to hear Dave Zirin in person. After listening to his podcasts, and seeing his film, Not Just A Game, I was just as excited as a small child anxiously awaiting Santa’s arrival. But, even Zirin didn’t want to be with me, and after a cancelled flight, he too ended up on my list of people I had been ditched by. Despite a shaky yet hilarious skype session with Zirin in an effort to keep me from flying home early, I couldn’t help but feel ripped off, but I still had one last thing to look forward to, the awards gala and after party.
Finally, a party that everyone from my paper would be forced to attend. I was finally going to get to go out, and I couldn’t wait. I spent hours curling my hair, put on my black heels and sparkly dress, and I was ready for a night on the town. Buses took the hundreds of student journalists in groups from our hotel to the University of Victoria campus bar, but as we entered the bar a strange and awful aroma began to fill the air, and as a man walked past me with someone else’s puke flowing down his back, this was the start of something awful.
My one night to finally go out, and we were being kicked out of the bar after one hour, because rumours began to swirl of food poisoning and a possible virus outbreak. Suddenly, as event organizers began to give out stats that 50 kids were now sick, I began to have a strange feeling in my stomach. This had to be just in my head, I prayed to myself, but it wasn’t. And as I walked out to the bus, I found myself off to the side, in my sparkly dress and curled hair, puking my guts out.
I spent the next 36 hours puking constantly, and doing other things, which are far too disturbing to repeat. I was one of just two people from my paper to get sick, and with the other on the opposite side of the hotel, and everyone else refusing to come near me, I was left alone. Being left alone while you are horrifically vomiting is not always a bad thing, but when paramedics are unaware of your existence, that is when it can get dicey. I could hear paramedics and staff go to every room down the hall from mine, knock on the door and give the occupants Pedialite and Tylenol. As they drew closer to my room I was excited to finally have something in my stomach, but they skipped over me. Since I was the only one left in my room, they assumed it was empty. And, since I was too weak to get up, there was nothing I could do, and so I lay not only alone and puking but also dehydrated and hungry.
Surely, the other healthy members of my paper at the time would come and at least check to see if I was okay, or breathing, wouldn’t they? No. In fact, they did quite the opposite. As I awoke in the morning after puking upwards of ten times throughout the night, I turned on my laptop and checked Twitter, as that was the only was that the hotel and event staff was communicating with us mutants – and if you didn’t have Twitter, you were screwed.
And as I scrolled through my feed a tweet from one of my colleagues read “we’re in Calgary!” I have never felt so alone in my life. Without a single text, email, phone call or carrier pigeon to see how I was doing, my colleagues left the province, showing no concern for my well-being whatsoever.
So there I was, forced to stay another night, still sick, and two provinces away from the closest person who cared about how I was feeling.
Many people wondered how I stayed on with my campus paper after the events that happened during NASH that week. And the truth is, sometimes I’m not even sure. I love what I do, and I suppose that’s what made me stay, but that was the worst week of my life, and I will never forget it.
So while all of you are preparing for a carefree, fun time at NASH, I will not be joining you.