To Those People I’ll Never See Again

Have you ever met someone for only a brief period of time — maybe for only a few hours or even a few minutes — but walked away feeling like that person had just impacted your life? Perhaps it was a stranger you talked to at a party that you ended up having a surprisingly meaningful conversation with. Or maybe it was a chatty taxi driver who told you a story you still find yourself thinking about years later.

This past summer I spent six weeks interning at a media company in Melbourne, Australia, and had the time of my life. From koalas, kangaroos and coffee to rainforests, beaches and mountains, Australia did not disappoint. I grew a lot both professionally and personally over those six weeks working nine-to-five and having to live relatively independently in a foreign country.

I also met a lot of new people, which was definitely the most valuable part of the entire experience for me. I learned so much from my mentor and became friends and travel buddies with the other interns. These people obviously impacted my life and were the cornerstones of my experience Down Under. However, there were certain people I met over those six weeks whom I only talked to for a brief period of time, yet, those conversations and short encounters left an impression on me, and I still catch myself thinking about them to this day.

To the girl who discussed tampons with me at my boss’s awards celebration:

It upsets me that I have no recollection of what your name was, because I truly felt like we became friends in those several hours we worked together. Thanks for sneaking sushi and macaroons from the guest trays with me and for helping me dump that giant cooler of ice into the tiny toilet. I was so impressed by your maturity and by the life experiences you’d already had at just 22. Growing up in India, going to college in North Carolina and now getting your master’s in Melbourne — you were so worldly, yet so humble about it all.

It felt weird saying goodbye to you at the end of the event because I knew I’d likely never see you again in my entire life. Even though I’d only known you a few hours, it seemed like you were the type of person I could become good friends with. I mean, if mutually complaining about the weirdness of Australian tampons doesn’t bond two people, I don’t know what does.

(Also — full disclosure — when you asked me if you were right about which type of wine glass and champagne flute was supposed to go with which drink, I honestly had no idea. I just agreed with you because you seemed to have your life together.)


Left to right: Girl I bonded with, my boss’s employee, Katy, from Brisbane, me

To the young man who was my Uber driver home from the book launch event:

I can’t imagine what it must have been like growing up in Kabul during the war. When you told me that, my brain exploded with so many questions I wasn’t sure were appropriate to ask. I’m glad I did ask some of them, though. Honestly, it was really surprising to hear how much you liked Americans and America, and it made me feel sad when you started explaining how Islam doesn’t preach hate and that terrorists shouldn’t even be considered Muslims. It pained me that you felt you needed to defend your faith so adamantly — I hope I made it clear I completely condemn Islamophobia.

I also recognized how unique that moment was: In a 20-minute Uber ride, an Afghani-Muslim guy and an American-Jewish girl had an intelligent conversation about how we both thought it wasn’t fair that Muslims and Americans have a bad rep with the rest of the world.

Good luck finishing your IT degree, and I hope you and your wife are able to go home and visit your mother in Afghanistan soon! Oh, and if I’m ever in Kabul, I’ll totally take you up on your offer to be my tour guide.

To the startup company co-founders I chatted with in the bar at the afterparty:

Dang, can I just say how in awe I was with the fact that you both were just a few years older than me and were already co-founders of an award-winning startup? I knew you were both smart and accomplished (I mean, you designed an app that uses artificial intelligence to help blind people), but explaining how you studied in Italy and California and casually mentioning how you’d just flown in that morning from delivering the keynote at a conference in Sydney had me thinking for a second: Okay, these people are actually talking to me.

Thanks for conversing with me for so long about American politics — I hope I sufficiently convinced you that not all Americans support Donald Trump! Thanks for teaching me about the Australian political system, as well — I didn’t know voting was compulsory for Aussies. I really appreciated the advice you gave me about work ethic and never letting other people talk you out of your goals. A lot of people say these things, but hearing it firsthand from a woman who has done it, who is semi my age and who looks like me was more inspiring than usual.


Travel is one of the most rewarding things you can do. I’ll admit, I’m as thirsty as the next person for that good Eiffel Tower selfie, but I’ve come to realize that moments like these can be even more memorable. Those spontaneous conversations and serendipitous encounters — you might not have a photo of them, but if they’ve impacted you, you don’t even need one.


My 2015 in Pictures

This year was a pretty big one for me — it was full of traveling, learning more about myself, becoming a better journalist, and so much more! I’ve pulled together some photos that I feel best represent the major and important places, people, events and experiences that impacted me in 2015.

IMG_2208 IMG_2212

I kicked off 2015 on New Year’s Day in Orlando, Florida, with Marching Mizzou at the Citrus Bowl. It was such a fun experience to play and perform at a bowl game — and even better that Mizzou won!

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

My mom and I spent a few more days in Orlando after Marching Mizzou left. One of the things we did was go on a boat tour of a bog in which we saw several alligators — this is the first of what turned out to be many animal & me photos from this year!


IMG_2001 IMG_2253

We celebrated my mom’s birthday at EPCOT, and I also felt the magic at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!


My friends and I celebrated our first college snow day with a spontaneous midnight adventure out to the Quad and Peace Park.


My last semester of freshman year I continued to report and anchor for MUTV 23 News, the campus television station. My friend (and partner in crime) Sarah and I went on many different packages together, including the Earth Day package in which we found ourselves at one point in the middle of a circle of chanting hippies.


My freshman roommate Sydney took me home to her house in St. Louis for a fun weekend and showed me around the town, including the St. Louis Art Museum.

IMG_2207I spent my spring break in New York City and, despite it being freezing cold the entire time we were there, I loved being back in the city. My mom and I saw two Broadway shows (Book of Mormon and Kinky Boots), went out to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, explored the Met, and visited the 9/11 Memorial Museum. One of my best friends from high school goes to Columbia University so I spent a lovely day with her. She showed me around Columbia and took me down to Brooklyn where I checked  something off my bucket list — crossing the Brooklyn Bridge! She also took me to a delicious Korean BBQ restaurant.


A highlight of the New York trip was waking up at 5:30 in the morning and waiting outside in freezing temperatures on the plaza of the Today Show. Since we got there early, we got prime spots right in the front and were even on TV for a few seconds here and there. However, the best part was getting to meet and briefly talk to the anchors Matt Lauer, Carson Daly and Al Roker. They were all so nice and seemed genuinely happy to greet us fans and take pictures.


I moved out of room 606 in Mark Twain Residence Hall after a great year with my roommate and suitemates. I couldn’t have asked for better people to share a room and bathroom with for nine months and it truly felt like we were a little family.

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 2.13.38 PM

Sydney and I drove down to visit our friend and suitemate Haley at her house in Harrison, Arkansas. We explored nature and Branson and went on golf cart escapades.


A seemingly minor, but actually quite significant, thing that happened in 2015 was that I purchased a DSLR camera. I’ve gotten more into photography and have learned more about it in my multimedia journalism class. I also went on several photography outings with friends, such as this one with my high school besties 🙂

IMG_2938I was asked to play piano for a local community theater production of the musical Lucky Stiff. What was supposed to be a 3-person combo pit ended up being just me for the entire musical, but I loved it. One thing I had really missed about high school was playing piano for musicals, so I was very excited to be back at it again. The cast and crew of the show were so welcoming and made my two months rehearsing and performing so much fun. I’ll admit it was a lot of time and effort, the music wasn’t easy to learn, and it was hard work being the sole person in the pit for 12 performances, but it was incredibly rewarding and I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

Rayna with Koala IMG_2984

Definitely the highlight of 2015 for me was the trip my mom and I took to Australia and New Zealand in July. My mom didn’t have a conference this summer so we were able to spend the entire  three weeks doing whatever we wanted. I checked off my 6th continent with an amazing time in Cairns and Sydney, Australia, and my animal-selfie theme continued with koalas and kangaroos.


My first snorkeling experience was in the Great Barrier Reef and it was surreal to see all the colorful coral and marine wildlife up close and personal, especially since my favorite Pixar film is Finding Nemo!


We took a tour of the Sydney Opera House and learned all about the fascinating history of how such an architectural feat came to be, and the initial controversy surrounding it. I was lucky to get to see my first professional opera in the Sydney Opera House — La Traviata.


I fell in love with the magical mountains and blue lakes of Queenstown, New Zealand, and this adventurous-yet-quaint town quickly became my all time favorite place in the world. (And also, this photo is my favorite photo from 2015, even though I didn’t take it — thanks, mom!)


We took a cruise through the fjords of Milford Sound in New Zealand, saw waterfalls, seals resting on rocks, and had wild dolphins swim alongside our boat. We also had a crazy small-world experience when we discovered that a couple on our tour boat was also from Columbia, Missouri, and that the woman was the chair of the Strat Comm department in the J-School!


I had been dreaming about going paragliding for a few years and finally got to do so in Queenstown. It began with a terrifying climb around the side of a mountain peak with only a mere rope to hold on to, but ended being one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Running and jumping off the side of a 5,000 foot mountain and soaring peacefully like a bird above the snowy landscape of New Zealand culminated into 20 minutes I’ll never forget.


We visited the city of Rotorua on New Zealand’s north island and, as you can see, my animal encounters continued. Rotorua is famous for its many geothermal pools and geysers, which unfortunately has led to the entire city reeking of sulfur, a stench that is suddenly and shockingly noticeable when flying in by airplane (but you sort of get used to it after a day or so.) Mom and I went to a traditional Maori center and feasted on lunches that were cooked by the steam from a geothermal hot spring.


Our trip ended in Auckland, New Zealand, the city of boats (Auckland’s boat-ownership ratio is one of the highest in the world!) I loved the cultural diversity of this cosmopolitan city, as well as the gigantic and delicious cinnamon rolls I had for breakfast at the deli next to our hotel.

IMG_3380 IMG_3374

My roommate Miranda and I had bought tickets to see Taylor Swift’s 1989 world tour way back in February, so we could barely contain our excitement when the day finally came in late-September. The concert was unbelievable and completely spectacular. From the insane back up dancers to the sets to the costumes to the light-up bracelets everyone was given, it was such a great night. Miranda and I sang along and danced to every single song!


For Halloween 2015 two of my roommates and I and our friend Wendy wanted to do an epic group costume for Deja Vu’s annual Halloween costume contest. After finding inspiration from Pinterest, we decided on going as “The Many Faces of Johnny Depp.” We each picked a famous Johnny Depp character and, as you can see, went all out. Every time I look at this picture, I am still so impressed with us. I was Willy Wonka, Miranda was the Mad Hatter, Haley went as Jack Sparrow, and Wendy was Sweeney Todd. We crushed the costume contest, easily winning first place in the group category and scored $200! Next year will be hard to beat.


Fall semester 2015 at Mizzou was monumental and non-stop with major events and protests. I wrote an entire blog post  about some of the events that transpired and my thoughts and opinions on it all. I was surprised but moved to see that the post was shared by people on Facebook and was viewed thousands of times. I ended up taking several photos from the moments after Tim Wolfe resigned as System President, in part because of an assignment for my J2150 multimedia class. Throughout the semester, despite it being a lot of work and, to be frank, a pain in the butt sometimes, I loved J2150. It pushed me to be my best and improve my journalistic photo, video, and audio storytelling skills. The class also taught me that multimedia is something I want to do with my life. I also took Cross-Cultural journalism this semester, which ended up being incredibly serendipitous with all of the racial protests and journalistic controversies that occurred in November.


Photo credit: my friend Sarah



Several other things worth noting happened in 2015: I got my first real and paying job (and I actually enjoy it!), I continued in my second semester of volunteer tutoring at an elementary school, I applied for my journalism interest area (Convergence Television Reporting), I moved into my first apartment, and I put my teenage years behind me as I entered a new decade of life on my 20th birthday.




Photo credit: my friend Sarah



Writing this post, I feel like so much happened in 2015, especially travel-wise. However, right now it looks like 2016 will be even busier and will be filled with even more travel adventures — the first one being a return to New York City in just a few weeks! Also on the calendar is a trip to Scotland and Iceland this summer, and possibly somewhere else in the States over spring break. It’s safe to say that I am so excited for the year to come and for the new photos and memories I’ll be making! And to everyone in my life — whether it be family, friends, roommates, professors, or that sweet woman at the Mark who always chatted with me in the grill line while she made me cheeseburgers– thanks for making 2015 such a memorable one.