My time as the Neuffer Fellow comes to a beautiful end this March. I already feel a hint of the nostalgia I know will engulf me when I finally leave New York, a city which has fast climbed up the list of my favourite places. But I know that when I remember my fellowship, it will be the incredible women I spent time with that will stick out to me.
I have connected with some incredible female, old and young and from varying professions in the US. These women have gone out of their way to teach me and to make my time here fun and special.
Chief among them are my colleagues at the Globe, MIT and the New York Times who are open to showing me the ropes and just listening. In February, I even went out to Long Island, some two hours outside New York City, to report on a piece with Somini Sengupta, the Times’ global climate reporter and an all-around badass journalist who has reported from West Africa, Asia and the Middle East and done all of the things that I want to do as a foreign correspondent. Somini has taken me under her wings in my brief time here, asking me about my story ideas, putting me on her own reporting projects so we can share a byline and even checking up on me on a weekend I fell sick. When I see Somini, I see all of the women I aspire to be. I see all of the women I want to take under my wings and share bylines with. I see the future and it is beautifully collaborative and beautifully female.
And can there be any talk of badass women journalists without mentioning Elizabeth Neuffer herself? I have felt her presence the most here in New York, connecting with her friends and former colleagues. There’s the lovely Carolyn Lee, a former Times editor who worked with Elizabeth, and Rosie Whitelaw, Elizabeth’s former neighbour. It was Rosie who took care of Elizabeth’s cat when she was on reporting trips. It was Rosie who heard Elizabeth’s loud interviews through the flimsy partitioning in their apartment. It’s Rosie who, when she talks of Elizabeth, still sounds mad at her passing. How could a beautiful, brilliant journalist and soul be taken like that?
I went out with these two women one chilly Friday night. We saw a show off-Broadway, an electric performance depicting life as a Black American mother, a show that left us three feeling doleful. To ward that off, we crammed into a table in a fancy bar where many of the waiters were upcoming actors – and dressed the part. For the next hour or two, I soaked in knowledge from these women. As I belted out laughs, I realised hanging out with two older ladies in a smoky bar on a Friday night is actually one of the most fun things I’ve done
There are more inspiring women, too many to mention. My friend Maysoon, a young journalist who’s on track to being a great name. Omolara, the doctor I met randomly at an NYU gathering and who I see New York with on the weekends, shivering in the chill and talking about life and work and being female. Kelsey, the young digital marketer who left a thriving swim school business behind and who I trade tales of woe and triumphs at work with all day. Amalia, my colleague at MIT who knows just what to say to crack me up when I’m down. The group of talented female journos I met at the IWMF HEFAT training in Phoenix. The list goes on.
But it all ends soon. March has been disappointingly slow because of the coronavirus pandemic but even if nothing else happens before my time here is over, I have enjoyed being in the US, thanks to all the women who I was lucky to cross paths with.
And in honour of all women around the world bringing joy by existing and thriving, I say salute.