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Congratulations to CAMD undergraduate student Aneri Pattani, School of Journalism, who has been chosen as the winner of one of the most coveted student contests in the country — The New York Times‘ Win a Trip Contest with Nicholas Kristof. For more than 10 years, Journalist Nicholas Kristof has been hosting this competition, and takes the winner along with him on a reporting trip to cover global poverty and social justice issues. Aneri will blog for Nicholas on The New York Times website about their daily trips, interesting people they meet, and issues they explore, and may participate in videos, too.

After hearing the news, we caught up with Aneri to hear, in her own words, what excites her most about this opportunity and what she plans to take away with her from this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Tell us about what you included in your essay when you applied. It must have really stood out!

In the essay, I focused on why I wanted to win the trip. I recounted a reporting experience I had during my summer internship at The Texas Tribune. I went to a border town called Laredo to report on a case of environmental racism. There, I interviewed people living in colonias, which are unincorporated settlements that don’t always have access to city services like water, paved roads, trash collection, etc. I never knew about these places, these people or the condition they lived in. I never imagined such things could exist in America. The experience really opened my eyes and made me realize that I could use my reporting to help eradicate my own ignorance, and hopefully enlighten others too. I then included a series of examples of social justice reporting I engaged in since that summer.

Aneri during her time in Texas

Leading up to the trip in June, what will you be doing?

Since I don’t blog until the trip, until then I will be in New York City this summer as a James Reston fellow at The New York Times. I’ll be working on their health and science desk. This was a separate application process that I happened to be chosen from along with several other summer interns for the Times. I will be there most likely before and after the trip in June.

What made you want to apply and win this contest? What excites you most about it?

I applied to this contest because the idea of international reporting seems so mysterious to me. I have had quite a few internships in newsrooms in the U.S., but I can’t imagine how much more challenging it must be to drop into a foreign country and try to do the same job there. To have the opportunity to learn how to navigate those waters from a Pulitzer Prize winning, seasoned professional like Nick Kristof is a dream come true. It’s particularly exciting to me because the issues Nick tends to cover overlap with some of the issues I am most passionate about – women’s health in particular. I am excited to make an impact with my reporting and hopefully fulfill the mission of the contest, which is to use my voice as a young journalist to get other young people to care about global issues that are often under-reported.

What skills and knowledge do you hope to leave this experience with?

I think there are lots of skills and knowledge I will gain during the course of the trip. First and foremost is the content knowledge of the issues we will be exploring. What works and doesn’t work for education systems in West Africa? How does poverty affect healthcare? What solutions are governments and non-profits trying? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? How can these be used in other places? What can West African countries learn from other countries?

Then there are the journalistic skills I hope to gain. How do you approach sensitive subjects in a compassionate yet thorough way? How do you get people to trust you as a foreign reporter in their land? How do you get people back home to care about these issues?

I think this experience will teach me a lot about being a better reporter while also making me a more open and knowledgeable person.

Aneri in Seville, Spain

Anything else you’d like to add?

I feel very fortunate to have this type of opportunity. I think most journalists go into the field because they want to make a difference. They want to give a voice to the oppressed and call attention to important issues of the day. That’s certainly what I hope to do with my career, and I feel this is a great starting point to learn how to approach it from someone who has made such an impact with his work, Nick Kristof.

I’m so thankful for everyone who has supported my dreams and helped me get to the point where I have the privilege of going on this trip. That includes my family and friends, my professors, my editors and colleagues, and so many people who have given me advice and support in my various journalistic endeavors.

Read “Journalism Student Selected For New York Times Global Reporting Experience,” by Greg St. Martin, published in News@Northeastern, March 10.