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Connected to Buckeyes ‘even half a world away’

This alumna connects with a current student on their common ground of journalism, the pandemic, Ohio State traditions and day-to-day life.

Woman wearing cloth mask with multi-colored patten and gray t-shirt

Shanti Lerner created care packages for those affected by a typhoon that hit the Philippines in November and donated them to the Office of the Vice President’s relief efforts. (Photo courtesy of Shanti Lerner)

When my former journalism professor Nicole Kraft put out a call on Twitter asking people to volunteer as subjects for her students’ semester-long project, I immediately offered to help. Sixteen months after graduating from Ohio State’s journalism program, I found myself stuck back home in the Philippines, my life — like so many of yours — upended by COVID-19 lockdowns.

In December 2019, I had come to visit family for the holidays, thinking I would return to my apartment, car and job in Columbus within a few months. Then the virus shut the world down.

Soon after I volunteered for the project, Janie Eyerman, a third-year journalism student, contacted me and asked if she could chronicle my COVID-19 experiences in the Philippines. I was excited to connect with and help a fellow budding journalist.

Beginning in August 2020, Janie and I spoke over FaceTime every few weeks. From the start, our conversations were more like the kind you have with friends rather than a formal interview. She liked hearing about my life during lockdown, and I enjoyed learning about her experiences as a student in Columbus dealing with the pandemic. We bonded over our favorite Buckeye traditions.

Janie and I have concluded our interviews, but we still swap updates by text: She was excited to hear about the fundraiser I organized after a typhoon hit the Philippines. (Several of my Ohio State classmates donated.) She told me she might add another major. We made plans to meet up for coffee in post-pandemic times.

I was excited to see how Janie portrayed my pandemic experience, and as you can see in her story, she did a wonderful job. I’m so grateful for our conversations. They made me feel closer to the Buckeye community, even half a world away.

Since she and I conversed for her assignment, I have taken a job as a culture and outdoors reporter for The Arizona Republic. As a member of an all-woman team, I am writing about Southwest culture and history with a focus on indigenous and Latin American communities and public lands. There are so many opportunities to tell all kinds of stories, and I welcome fellow Buckeyes to read some of mine. Arizona is awesome. I feel like I belong here, and I’m happy to say that I have already met some fellow Buckeye alumni.

Two young women on a patio filling cardboard boxes, 3 rows of red bags, and a row of gallon jugs. There is a bench behind them with a fan.

Lerner and another volunteer prepare care packages they created with typhoon-relief donations.

Connect with students

The Ohio State University Alumni Association’s Office of Volunteer Relations offers alumni a range of ways to pay forward to current students and reap the rich rewards of helping others. Virtual opportunities allow you to volunteer wherever you are.

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