I almost choked on my chicken noodle soup the other day as I was skimming Facebook on my phone in The Hub and saw that Chris Rhatigan and Melanie Reichwald – two of the most memorable graduates of the Purchase journalism program – were married. TO EACH OTHER! And living a wonderfully adventurous life as school teachers in the foothills of the Himalayas in India.
Chris (Class of 2005) was in the first ever Journalism 1 class I taught at Purchase. He’d quit the Music Conservatory to major in journalism. An unusual choice, but clearly a wise one for him. He was extremely smart and likable – and I always had him pegged to become an AP reporter.
Melanie (Class of 2006), a Journalism and Literature double major, was just simply a star at everything she did.
I knew they had started dating at Purchase, and Chris stayed in touch a little as he started his career as a working journalist. But after a while we lost touch. Until now.
I caught up on their lives somewhat through a blog they write of their adventures in India. Chris and I exchanged news through Facebook and I sent him some questions to fill in the blanks for me for the last few years.
1) What year did you and Mel graduate?
I graduated in 2005 and Mel in 2006.
2) Where did you go after graduation?
After graduation, we moved to Milford, CT. I was a reporter for The New Haven Register for two years. Mel worked as an administrative assistant for a youth choir program. Then in 2007 we moved to Iowa. Mel earned her Master’s degree in English literature from the University of Iowa. I worked for the Iowa City Press-Citizen and then went back to school for a degree in social studies education.
3) How did you end up in India? And where are you exactly? Name of school, region of India.
Both of us have always wanted to travel but didn’t have the money or time, so we decided to pursue teaching abroad. We applied to a number of schools all across the world. We were excited about Woodstock School from the moment we heard about it. Its location is awe-inspiring–in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, in the northeast state of Uttarakhand, nearish to the border with Nepal. This past winter, we traveled through western India–Mumbai, Udaipuhr, Jaipur, Jodhpur–and next winter we’re planning on going to Thailand and Malayasia.
4) Is there anything you remember from the journalism program that has helped you, past and present?
Majoring in journalism at Purchase was probably one of the better decisions I’ve made. Not only did I meet a bunch of cool people there, I also learned the importance of good writing and reporting. I use what I learned there every day. Sometimes in obvious ways–I teach journalism and I have a side job working for a proofreading company–and other times in less obvious ways, like when I’m writing an email to persuade someone to do something. I also often incorporate current events into my history and political science classes–and I learned how to be a savvy consumer of media at Purchase.
Our wedding was a very small affair at an Italian restaurant in New Haven. (Unfortunately, the restaurant closed shortly after the wedding. Luckily, the marriage has outlasted the restaurant.) Melanie sang “Our Love Is Here to Stay” and, although those who know me will say I’m a black-hearted cynic of the first order, this will go down as one of the best moments of my life.
I ran the Purchase Record along with Neal McNamara and Karen Zraick, an ill-fated publication that died upon our graduation. Nevertheless, that’s the most fun I’ve had in journalism. We would be laying out stories and at around 4 in the morning, the Krispy Kreme delivery truck would arrive and we’d get free doughnuts. Neal and I did a story comparing local liquor stores. We also ticked off the administration on several occasions. This is the kind of thing that happens at Purchase because it’s small and populated with open-minded, interesting people.
If you’re someone who wants people to tell you where to be and what to do, go to a big state university (like the University of Iowa). But if you’re an independent learner who wants to pursue your own interests, Purchase is great.
Yes! Mel’s roommates from Purchase are still our close friends. We also stay in close contact with Neal and Patricia Huzar, who lived in Seattle for a while and are now back in Connecticut where they belong.
It warms the cockles of a journalism professor’s heart to hear that two wonderful students like Chris and Mel are married, living exciting lives, and that one of them teaches journalism.
(All the pictures in this post are from Mel and Chris’ blog and Facebook pages.)