By Shae Koharski |

There’s nothing scarier than a black screen.  

The first thing you do is plug in the computer – maybe it’s just dead and needs a charge. But it’s black.

Let’s turn to Google where there’s always an answer. It says to hold down the power button. Crossing your fingers, you hope the Apple symbol pops up. But it’s still black. Now it’s okay to freak out. 

No matter where you are, a black screen on your computer can be your worst nightmare. As a journalism major, your career depends on a laptop. That’s where you write and do research. It’s your lifeline. 

Computers glitch all the time. A quick trip to the Apple store or Best Buy to have someone fix and diagnose it in a few hours isn’t a big deal. But what happens when you’re in a different country? 

The first day of my five-week study abroad program, my computer had the dreaded black screen. During this trip, created specifically for journalism students, I was the given the title of visual arts director of The Bundle, which is photographing, editing and making sure media flowed well. How was I supposed to do my job without a computer?  

After crying to my mom on FaceTime, we figured I should just go to the local Apple Store in Prague. A quick Google search failed me – there are no Apple Stores in Prague or in Budapest, which is the next city we were spending the majority of our trip. With no free time left in Prague, I pushed off the computer until we got to Budapest. 

Through the Apple Support app on my phone, they found me an authorized Apple dealer close to our apartment that I could take my broken computer to. After going in, they told me that they only work with phones at that location and I would need to make an appointment with a different location that catered to laptops. This was my only free day for another week, how was I going to continue work without my laptop? 

I finally booked an appointment about a week after that initial walkin. It was another week of waiting and praying it was going to be a simple fix. I was going on week three with no laptop.  

So, how did I cope? 

Cope is such an interesting word to use in this situation. A broken laptop is not the end of the world. There are many ways around it. But in the moment, it’s stressful and scary. It’s an expensive piece of equipment that you expect to last you a long time. My last computer lasted me eight years with no crashes. 

But as a student journalist, your life is that laptop. Your college and professional career basically depends on it. But this happens all the time. I think of international journalists in worse countries where technology fails them. They make do. When I think of them, my situation doesn’t seem bad. I know the date that I’m flying home and the nearest Apple Store near me, but they don’t have that luxury.  

That really put the situation into perspective for me. Some don’t even have internet access, yet they still find a way to tell their story because they’re determined to do whatever it takes. They’re journalists. 

I made the appointment and waited to see the next step. I’ll be honest, I don’t have money right now to buy a brand new laptop, so I prayed they can do something. With no extra money to buy something new, I had to work with what I have – my phone. Thankfully I have Adobe Creative Cloud and could access it on my phone. While some programs are limited, I could still edit my photos. Other students offered to let me borrow their laptops. While I took them up on their offer occasionally, I hate borrowing things. I feel bad putting people out on my expense, but sometimes that’s what you have to do to get the job done. Editing photos on my phone wasn’t terrible, but typing articles on my phone was more challenging for me. So I went old-fashioned and wrote my first draft of this article with a pen and paper and typed the final draft on my phone. The paper looked messy, filled with scribbles, misspelled words, notes on the side and a drawing in the margin, but it was better than typing it on my phone 

The black screen still scares me. My computer is hiding in the closet right now because thinking about it makes me stressed. I feel like I failed but there’s always a way out. If your only option is pen and paper, don’t be afraid of it and if someone offers their computer, take it and be thankful. Also, take advantage of what your phone has to offer. 

This happens to many people everyday. Many depend on their laptop, but people still get their work done because they have to. They find a way to get it done. Sure, they can get stressed and maybe call their mom crying on FaceTime, but they don’t give up. Journalists do it. They aren’t afraid of the black screen.  

Update: 

After my computer appointment, I finally have the verdict. A liquid seeped into my computer and covered the motherboard. The incident must have happened on the plane, since my computer was working fine in the Dallas airport. The cost to repair? $1142. Needless to say, my mom got another crying FaceTime call. 

But we only have a few days left in Budapest, so it’s time to dry my tears and pack up my broken computer. I’m proud of myself for accomplishing this trip with no laptop. I feel like I’ve had my first official incident as a journalist, and I got through it just fine.  

So if I can survive a black screen, I can do anything.