Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA. (Image courtesy: Jon Boroshok)

I’ve never been on a plane before, or even across the country. All I’ve ever known is the lull of the road and the familiarity of the East Coast. Then, I had the chance of a (collegiate) lifetime to travel to a place I’d never been before: San Francisco.

After waking up at 3:30am for an hour-long drive to the Logan International Airport, followed by an approximately six-hour flight from Boston, MA to San Francisco, CA, we finally arrived at a place that was slightly warmer and teeming with awaiting adventures.

We soaked in the setting sun as it graced the Golden Gate Bridge in majestic beams. Hundreds upon hundreds of photos of our team were taken; from one featuring the Creative Writing and English majors (Penmen Press Senior Managing Editor, Adam Dufault (’23); Penmen Press Lead Copy Editor, Allie Beaumont (’23); Penmen Press Staff Representative, Emily Blais (’24); and myself) to others picturing the Communication Major crew (Penmen Press Co-Editor-in-Chief, Chris Tutt (’24) and Penmen Press Adviser, Professor Jon ‘JB’ Boroshok) and so many more. We roamed along the pathways by the bridge, snapping photos at different angles (while observing purple flowers).

Standing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge felt like a scene from the movies; it almost seemed unreal. At the same time, I think that was the moment when it hit that we were in San Francisco. Especially after planning and talking about the trip for months, the dream suddenly became a reality.

After the sun disappeared, we found ‘the place to be’ at Fisherman’s Wharf. Ranging in shops and restaurants, we all found a piece of the boardwalk to explore, whether it was finding new baseball hats at Lids or getting our fortunes from Zoltar. We found ourselves returning to it for various occasions, including when Emily, Allie, and I went for a much-needed girls’ night on Friday, March 10. I only wish we could have stayed longer because there was so much more to see just in that small corner of the city.

On Thursday, March 9, we all boarded the boat to Alcatraz. We watched the island grow closer into view, and a hush fell over the passengers of the cruise ship. The tone of the tour was eerie, enhanced by the dismal weather. Once we got our bearings, we set off to the main prison.

One of the cells in D Block, where the worst-behaved inmates were put, had a whiteboard with the question, “What makes you feel human?” written on it. Visitors on the island were given the chance to answer the question. Adam answered the question, putting down “nature.” If I were to go back and put down my answer, I would write “love.” The experience of visiting Alcatraz was one to give goosebumps, and it was worth it.

The main reason we went on the trip became our sole focus. I remember going to that first workshop for the Associated Collegiate Press conference in the hotel we were staying at, the Hyatt Regency. We split off to go to our different sessions. Everyone in my team went down the hallway where rooms H through O were; I was down the hallway with rooms A through G. This happened often, with everyone ending up in different rooms for various breakout sessions. Several times, I attended sessions with my teammates, such as Editor-in-Grief sessions with Tutt, or Project Planning with Emily. I networked with other college students, even making a couple of friends in the process.

With each session I went to, I personally found my desire to be a journalist following college solidified. We all got so much from these meetings, which led us to reconvene eagerly after the sessions were completed to share what we learned and what ideas sparked. One of my favorite sessions was called “Your story, your voice,” which demonstrated the power of first-person writing in journalism. I’ve never attempted to write an article in the first person, yet I found that there can be a certain beauty about it. That style of writing establishes more of a connection between reader and writer, something that doesn’t often happen in journalism.

It wasn’t only the impact of the conference or the big moments that made the trip, like visiting the Full House house; it was everything in between. It was the way we went up to the fourteenth floor to look out to the sun sparkling along the ripples of the Pacific Ocean. It was the way we kept up conversations during Uber rides, or how we went on joy rides using the city scooters. It was the shenanigans at a playground, and the stories told at Mangia Tutti Ristorante. Most of all, the memories I’ll keep are in every photo, everything we learned, and overall, every moment we spent together.