Seventeen days.

It feels like two years, but in reality it’s only been 17 days.

My first true experience as a journalist has had some very high highs and some very low lows, but at the end of the day this has all been completely worth it.

When I first arrived to the Indiana State Fairgrounds as part of the BSU Journalism at the Fair team, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect. I had never really been to a fair except for a few brief stops at my local Allen County Fair.

As I drove through Gate 10 to park in the infield, my sights were set on this dull, gray trailer located right by the Hoosier Lottery Grandstand. This trailer is what I called home for 17 days.

It’s crazy how close you become with those 28 people that you spend those 17 days with. What impresses me the most is how we made a shipping-container-turned-trailer into a full-blown newsroom. Sometimes a profanity-ridden mess of a newsroom that smells like cow poop, but nevertheless, still a newsroom.

It was hectic. It was rewarding. It was anxiety-ridden. It was a true journalistic experience.

And the stories—where do I even begin? I knew what stories I wanted to write, but you never quite exactly know what your clients want (or what your instructors want).

My stories had the widest variety that you could possibly imagine:

  • I talked to lady who ran a dog-kissing booth with the cutest dogs in the world.
  • I talked to the most dedicated marching-band parents with the biggest hearts.
  • I got to watch an amazing performance by an up-and-coming country music star.
  • I learned how important Future Farmers of America is and how it provides students with a way not to be so shy.
  • I got to watch senior citizens clog to Bruno Mars.
  • I watched people brave the rain to enjoy their fair experiences.
  • I got to meet two talented cheerleading sisters who are continuing a family tradition.
  • I spent six and a half hours on a train just to get a great story.

The one major takeaway that I have after operating as a real-life journalist is that people at the fair are really nice people. You get nervous when you approach somebody you don’t know. You start to sweat profusely when you begin to ask questions of somebody with a higher title than you.

But then you realize, you are surrounded by Hoosiers. They are easily some of the most down-to-earth humans that you will meet. And if you ever are nervous about starting a conversation for journalistic purposes, talk to an old person. They are the nicest people and will talk to you for 48 hours. I have learned that old people love me, and that makes me eternally happy.

I learned a lot from this place. I learned that the fairgrounds are a magical place where anything can happen. I learned that 28 college students could be just as good, if not better, than journalists who have 20-plus years of experience.

But most importantly, I learned that those 28 people that I worked with have become family—the best family that I could’ve asked for.

Hendrix Magley is a writer for BSU Journalism at the Fair, a group of 30 students telling Indiana’s stories from a trailer somewhere between the cheese sculpture and the state’s biggest sow. This Ball State University immersive-learning project works for elephant ears.