A Very International Spring for Chicago

[flickr id=”7203186618″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”true” size=”original” group=”” align=”none”] So what exactly does a grad student do all summer? Work. Write. Go to class or an internship, sure. But I also make sure to save some time for adventures, especially adventures that will land me on or under the water.

The city itself has been having some exciting adventures this spring. From hosting a gathering of the world’s living Nobel Peace Laureates in April to the nervously anticipated NATO Summit this May, the city’s a goldmine for locally-reported international news stories.

There are adventures to be had inside and outside one’s professional context. Outside of work, I’ve gotten the chance to hear the Dalai Lama speak when he came to Chicago this May for the Nobel Peace Laureate Summit.

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He’s got to be one of the most inspiring and humble religious leaders I’ve met. When the Dalai Lama noticed one of the officials standing on stage during a lengthy question and answer time, he stopped the session until they found him a chair. When they couldn’t find one right away, the Dalai Lama moved over and invited the man to sit on his small couch with him for the rest of Q&A time.

And while Chicago’s been in the international spotlight a great deal this spring, the world wide attention will intensify while we host the NATO Summit this May.

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Columbia actually moved the spring semester forward to accommodate NATO and the complications it will bring and has officially closed the campus for the NATO weekend.

But that doesn’t stop us journalists.

Professors Teresa Puente and Steve Franklin are leading a Covering NATO course that’s going to meet in what they’ve dubbed “The Situation Room” during the NATO meetings with special dispensation from the Columbia administration. Miraculously, we were all able to get press credentials for NATO, so we’re even official.

I’m lending a hand as a grad assistant, helping edit student work and get it live on ChicagoTalks.

We’ve been incredibly conscientious about safety with the NATO Summits. Chicagoans still remember the ’68 Democratic National Convention vividly and the memories of that protest marred by violence always pop up in conversation about covering the NATO protests as a worst case scenario.

But Chicago has also had many large, peaceful protests since then, and we’re getting special training in covering crowds safely from both a lawyer and Columbia’s head of security.

Even more exciting is that we’ve partnered with the School of Interactive Arts and Media as part of a special study in Emergency Communications that will allow us access to special apps and WiFi networks so we can stream live coverage of the protests as they unfold.

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This guy here is wearing a special WiFi receiver and broadcaster that will pick up signal and distribute it to our reporters since we anticipate the cellphone and data grids will be completely overwhelmed.

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Of course, we’re not sure that our fancy WiFi backpacks will even be allowed into Grant Park, what with the boat batteries that power them looking suspicious and full of wires, but it’s worth a try, right?