Please give us a summary of your career to date. What have you been doing and where do you see yourself heading?
I am currently a freelance international journalist based in Brooklyn, New York, and my reporting focuses on women’s stories around the globe. I have reported from countries including Iraq, South Africa, Indonesia, and Costa Rica on issues such as reproductive rights, education, and what it takes to rebuild, both psychologically and physically, after a war. As a freelancer, I get to work with a lot of media organizations, and my work has been published by The Associated Press, VICE, The Atlantic, and others. I also just published my first book, THE RBG WAY: The Secrets of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Success. It looks at tangible lessons we can all learn from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second female Supreme Court justice in the U.S., and apply to our own lives to become a little more notorious either personally and professionally.
I plan to continue to report on women’s stories worldwide. I am interested in reporting from post-conflict zones, as I think the news cycle often moves too quickly, and we do not get a chance to hear the stories of those who are rebuilding their lives following extreme trauma. While breaking news is incredibly important and necessary to cover, I want to focus on the aftermath of war and trauma, and what it takes to revive a community, place, or city.
Please describe some of your greatest and most memorable professional achievements.
I definitely have a few of these! I am very lucky to have the job I have — it allows me to meet people all over the world and listen to their stories.
One of my most memorable professional achievements comes right after my time at VAC. Following our time in South Africa, my colleague and fellow VAC alum Diana Crandall and I went on a reporting trip to Costa Rica thanks to funding from the Pulitzer Center, an organization that gives grants to journalists to report on overlooked issues. We applied for the grant to report on deforestation, an issue that multiple sources had confirmed was a major problem within indigenous communities, including one called the BriBri. We did interviews and research while in San Jose, then traveled across the country to stay with the BriBri community. But after we had taken a car, two buses, and a canoe to get to the community, we learned that the deforestation was actually happening over the border in Panama, despite our sources having told us otherwise. So there, in the middle of the jungle, our entire reporting trip imploded in on us. We had to make a very sudden decision on what to do. We had no internet, no cell phone service, no editor to turn to and ask advice from. We decided to ask the BriBri what they would like us to report on instead, and they said education. We ended up doing about 15 interviews over the course of two days before we had to return to San Jose. Ultimately, we wrote a story on the intersection between education, technology, and poverty in the BriBri community. The piece was published by The Atlantic and that year, it won the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award. I will never forget that trip — nothing went as planned and we were fully alone, no professors, editors, guides, for the first time in our careers. But we figured it out and wrote a story that we were both very proud of.
visas for their work, which oftentimes puts them in immense danger. That piece was published by PRI’s The World just a few months ago. The whole trip was an unforgettable experience and a reminder that you should always take the leap, even if it scares you (but do it safely! I am trained in hostile environments and first aid, and I had insurance, people to vouch for my hotel and translator, etc).
Writing my book is also a very memorable experience. I had reported on talk between Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg in December of 2018 for the Associated Press. About a month later, an editor from Skyhorse Publishing reached out to me and said she had seen my article and wanted to know if I had any interest in writing a book about Justice Ginsburg. I thought it was spam or that my email had been hacked, but I learned that no, Skyhorse was a real publishing house in Manhattan and they really were offering me the opportunity to write a book about one of my heroes. I ultimately had to write the book in four months, and it was a total whirlwind. I conducted nearly 20 interviews and read or watched every single thing on or by the Notorious RBG that I could. I honestly still can’t believe that the book is now out in the world. I am very grateful for the opportunity, and though I am sure the book is not perfect and would’ve loved just one more month (or seven), I learned so much and took so much away from the experience.
What were the highlights of your internship experience in Cape Town?
Can you share an example of how your internship experience aided you with your career?
What’s the single most important piece of advice you’d like to give to future VAC interns and/or those considering participation in the program?
If you’re considering VAC, do it. Right now. Sign up. Cape Town is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and an amazing city to immerse yourself in. VAC staff members are kind, generous, and supportive. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to get out of your comfort zone, whether that’s within your chosen field or just personally, while still having a safety net like VAC. If you’ve never traveled abroad, they are there to hold your hand while you need it and let go when you’re ready. If you have traveled before, they are ready to give you the freedom you want while knowing they’re a phone call away (or at the bar next door) just in case. Sidenote: They are also just super fun. They truly know how to have a good time and want everyone within VAC to have one too. But they also care about teaching VACers to understand and appreciate Cape Town.
My biggest piece of advice, besides signing up for VAC, is really utilizing all that they have to offer. Take advantage of the Vactivities (a term I want to still claim credit for) that the staff offers on Fridays. Not only are they a blast, but more importantly, they are informative and meaningful. The activities are planned so you can really learn about the city and country you are living in, which is an incredibly important aspect of VAC, and a valuable lesson to remember for future travels. Do as much as you can during the months you are there — learning how to travel or live abroad well with their support will help you continue to travel in a fun, exciting, and safe ways in the future. I highly recommend learning to scuba dive and going to Mozambique. A lot of my favorite memories and some once-in-a-lifetime experiences from my time with VAC come down to those decisions.
I am very grateful to all that VAC gave me. I think frequently of heading back to Cape Town with the goal of just reliving it all. My internship helped me grow so much, but so did the overall experience, and I am so thankful.
Any predictions for what we can expect from you in 10 year’s time?
With any luck, I will have many more adopted dogs (right now there’s just one, his name is Oats, since Brooklyn apartments are small) and will still be working as a journalist. I actually recently looked at my high school yearbook from senior year (2008-2009), and they asked all the seniors this same question. My answer was something along the lines of “chasing down hard-hitting stories around the world.” While I hope I sound much less pretentious these days, I do hope I am still a journalist and writer in 10 years, because I feel incredibly lucky to have the job I do.