Every internet post and meme I’ve seen has said how 2016 was such an awful year. And yes, a lot of terrible things did happen in the world this year. But, looking back, my 2016 also had a lot of good come out of it. I had the opportunity to travel to some incredible places, and at one point I was on three different continents in one week. I made new friends and strengthened friendships with old ones, and I greatly developed my skills as a journalist.
Here are 16 highlights from my year:
1. Visiting NYC and seeing our cousin on Broadway
My 2016 had an exciting start with my mom and I making a last-minute trip to NYC in January when we found out our cousin Robert was going to be playing a part in Finding Neverland for a limited time. The show was amazing, and it was so fun knowing someone in it. Afterward, Robert gave us a backstage tour! While in New York, we also saw Something Rotten and Matilda, as well as visited MoMA and the Met.
2. Experiencing True/False for the first time
After living in Columbia for 20 years, I’m unsure as to why I’d never been to the True/False Film Festival before, but I hadn’t. My friend Sarah had a press pass so we were able to get tickets to several films, and the others we queued for. My favorite film we saw was Sonita, which was about an Afghani refugee girl who raps about social issues. After the movie, the real Sonita came out on the stage and performed for the audience. Sarah and I even ran into Sonita on the street after we saw the film!
3. Interning in Melbourne
Perhaps the biggest highlight of my 2016 was my six-week internship in Melbourne, Australia. Not only did I have a great experience working at my internship and creating things to add to my portfolio, but I also grew a lot as a person having to manage living in a new city. I made new friends with the other interns, saw the Great Ocean Road, had the best mochas and hot chocolates of my life and got up close and personal with kangaroos and wallabies.
4. Weekend trip to Tasmania
Three intern friends and I took a long weekend and traveled to the island of Tasmania, which was only a 30-minute flight from Melbourne. We rented a car and had a cute (but, surprisingly, very spacious) Airbnb. Our Tasmanian adventure included: driving up to the top of a mountain, walking through a rainforest, going on a ghost tour of an old penitentiary, roadtripping to Freycinet National Park, walking on secluded beaches during gorgeous sunsets and eating delicious desserts. Tasmania definitely earned a spot on my list of favorite places.
5. Visiting Sydney
The last weekend trip I did was with three friends to Sydney. Even though our Airbnb situation ended up being kind of a disaster (we now fondly refer to it as “The Ratchet Aribnb”), we had a great few days in the city. We got hella lost our first day trying to walk to the Opera House — the streets of Sydney are curved instead of a grid, which made it extremely confusing for us — but we eventually made it and boy, even though it was my second time to Sydney, seeing the Sydney Opera House up close still blew me away. We also visited the Art Gallery of New South Wales, walked through the Royal Botanic Gardens, ambled along Bondi Beach and took in stunning views of the city from high up in one of the towers next to the Harbour Bridge.
6. Spending time with family
Mom and I went to Cleveland over spring break to visit my grandpa. We also came to Cleveland for the beginning of winter break this December like we do every year. Sadly, one of my great-aunts passed away while we were there, and the day we were supposed to have a family party we had a funeral. However, the light in this situation is that I got to spend time with cousins I rarely see and connected with some fascinating distant relatives I’d never met before. This year showed me the importance of spending time with family whenever you can, because you never know when a “goodbye” will be your last.
7. Trip to Scotland…
Five days after returning home from Australia my mom and I left for Europe. My mom had a conference in Glasgow, Scotland, and we also visited Edinburgh. Scotland was never a destination that was high on my list of places to visit, but it was really incredible. I visited the university Hogwarts was based on, saw the cafe in which J.K. Rowling actually wrote Harry Potter, cruised Loch Ness, visited a gorgeous Victorian cemetery, admired some beautiful old castles and churches and heard some great music at my mom’s conference.
8. …and Iceland
After Scotland we spent five days in Iceland — somewhere that was high on my list of places to visit. Iceland did not disappoint. We stayed in Reykjavik (the northernmost capital of the world, btw) and it found it to be a charmingly modern and quaint city, not at all hustling and bustling like other capital cities we’ve visited. We took two different day tours. One was of the Golden Circle, in which we saw lava fields, geysers and waterfalls. The second day tour, and my favorite, was to Iceland’s south coast. The drive was gorgeous and we saw more waterfalls, a black beach, puffins and glaciers.
9. Seeing Queen Bey in concert
In September my friend/roommate Haley and I drove to St. Louis to see Beyoncé in her Formation World Tour. We’d bought our tickets over the summer and I’d excitedly anticipated the concert for months. The concert was unforgettable and I kept saying to Haley that I couldn’t believe we were actually seeing Beyoncé in person. She was actually there up on that stage. And when she started singing “Halo” at the end, man, just Beyoncé.
10. Voting in my first presidential election
Okay, we all know how this event tragically ended. But it was still a highlight of my year. I was very excited to cast my ballot in my first presidential election, especially one of this magnitude.
11. Halloween costumes and making BuzzFeed
My roommates and I dressed up as “The Many Faces of Johnny Depp” for Halloween 2015. I submitted a pic of us to BuzzFeed and we actually made it into one of the site’s posts (number 9)! This year for Halloween 2016 we continued the group costume theme and went as Batman and his villains.
12. Continuing volunteering as a tutor for second grade
I’ve been involved with the organization A Way With Words and Numbers since my freshman year. In 2016 I continued and was in a second grade classroom. I love the eagerness, sweetness and innocence of the second graders and it’s so much fun getting to know them and helping them learn. It’s so heartwarming to walk into the classroom and have a chorus of second graders go, “Can I go with Miss Rayna today? Please can I go?” ❤
13. Successfully completing J4804
J4804 Convergence Reporting is notoriously one of the hardest classes in the entire Mizzou J-School. This fall semester was my toughest, busiest and most stressful semester of my college career thus far, and all due to 4804. I was terrified coming into this class because of it’s reputation. However, 4804 ended up being the most valuable class I’ve taken in college thus far. Yes, it was difficult and there were tough moments — like when two teammates and I got stranded on the side of I-70 with a flat tire on our first team story — but I learned so much and improved my skills by 1,000 times. I traveled to Waverly, Missouri, the state capitol, and met tons of fascinating sources. I got better at talking to strangers, working with teammates and learned that, if the amount of effort is mutual, I love collaborating with like-minded people. I am quite proud of the the work I did in 4804 and even had a radio story air on KBIA!
14. Keeping up this blog
As part of J4804, we got extra credit if we kept a blog with weekly posts about a certain topic. I chose “travel” as my topic and enjoyed having to write about it every week. I like keeping a blog, but I’ve found that if I don’t have an actual reason to keep it up, I find it hard to motivate myself to do so. My favorite blog post I did in 2016 was this one in which I compared my grandparents’ 40-year-old travel photos to pictures from my own travels. In the journalism class I’m taking this coming semester we also get extra credit if we have a blog, so looks like I’ll be able to keep this up (at least for another semester).
15. Late-night jam sessions with my best friend
I was lucky enough to be able to go through 4804 with one of my best friends, Sarah. We suffered together and triumphed together. After long 10+ hour deadline days at the j-school, I’d often go over to Sarah’s apartment where we’d unwind by having mini jam sessions. (Basically just playing guitar and trying to figure out harmonies to Jonas Brothers’ songs.) Can’t wait till we’re roommies next fall so this can be a more regular occurence.
16. Turning 21
I turned the big 2-1 last week on December 23. We went out to lunch and I ordered my first legal drink and proudly got carded. Can’t wait to get a new non-vertical drivers license!
All in all, 2016 was a pretty good year for me. Hopefully 2017 will be even better, and much better for this country and the world. Starting with a trip back to NYC in a few weeks, and hopefully another internship adventure this summer, 2017, I have high hopes for you!