First things first: Washington DC

Last year, we were all forced to take a break. Due to COVID-19, the unimaginable happened – the world stood still for a few months, or so it felt. For the first time in the 16-year-long history of the Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship, no one was able to complete the program.

The plague is far from over, but the world is learning how to function in this new reality – and so are we. Taking all necessary precautions, the fellowship is back on track, and this year, I’m the lucky fellow – a surreal fact I’m still getting my head around. My name is Ada Petriczko and I’m a human rights’ journalist from Poland. Over the next 7 months, I will be reporting to you from Boston and New York, where I am conducting journalism interviews at the Boston Globe and the New York Times, while also working as a research associate at MIT. My focus, as always, is on women’s rights and the manifold ways in which governments and communities try to silence women.

Reporting in Bolivia, 2017. Photo: Sonia Szóstak

The first month of the fellowship has been a rollercoaster of changes and emotions. I moved continents and started to acclimatize at my new workplaces. Everything felt foreign and familiar at the same time. Foreign – as it was pretty much my first time in the US (safe for an awesome but brief reporting trip to the Sundance Film Festival a few years back, which I recall through the haze of jetlag). Familiar – because in Europe we are immersed in American culture, reluctant as we may be to admit it. During my first weeks in Boston, I was in a state of perpetual deja vu, as if I had already seen this place somewhere (most likely on the big screen).

But before settling in Boston – my home for the next months – I spent a week in Washington DC, where the IWMF headquarters is based. And my friends, it was not a bad week.

My first stop was the powerhouse that is the IWMF. After months of speaking virtually, it was great to meet everyone in person. No longer pixels but people of flesh and blood, we spent the whole day together, which instantly made me feel more at home in the US.

I also had the opportunity to connect with the DC-based media outlets and NGOs I would like to work with in the future. I met with the editors of The Atlantic, The Washington Post, NPR, National Geographic and The Intercept. I’ve also spoken to the representatives of Oxfam, The Malala Fund and The National Organization of Women. Unfortunately, most of the meetings were virtual (damn you, Delta). At first, I was nervous, because in my mind the word “networking” resided dangerously close to “small talk”. But yet again I was reminded that networking is basically speaking to kind and thoughtful people who are passionate about the same issues as me, and figuring out how we could collaborate. I loved each one of these talks.

With Kelly McBride, the public editor at NPR

Last but not the least, I got to be a proper tourist in Washington. I had the afternoons to myself, walking for hours and exploring the diverse food scene of the city (whenever in DC, go Ethiopian folks). I was high on the novelty of everything around me (dear beginnings, why do you have to end?) Taking advantage of the fact that all of the 17 Smithsonian Museums are free, I spent hours geeking on an insane amount of free art at the National Portrait Gallery and The American Art Museum. I also visited the powerful African American History Museum, which is a must-see for anyone trying to understand the complex social history of this country.

I left DC feeling relaxed, inspired and ready for my next stop and new home: Boston.

The epic Afican American History Museum