I have officially submitted my graduation application for May 2020.
When I first decided to go to college, I applied as an advertising major because I wanted to do something related to writing and design, and more importantly I wanted to be creative. In high school I learned that I was a fast writer and I really loved art. Later, I got really into activism and social issues and decided that a media communication major would be a better fit, and therefore I switched my major to journalism and mass communication right before I officially started university.
I didn’t have any formal experience in reporting or journalism. At the time, I just told myself that we needed more voices from women of color in the media, and that I would become that person.
At the end of my freshman year, I got my first media-related job as a weekly blogger/social media content creator for Iowa State University Office of Admissions. I had a lot of fun, and I got to be really creative with my writing here!
As I entered my upper-division classes, I started to really fall in love with my major. I was challenged as a writer and I was challenged to read more critically. To be a journalist, you have to go out and experience the events for yourself. You have to talk to people and understand how they feel. And then you get to be the person who documents their story or an event in history.
And sometimes… these experiences are hard. Sometimes information is sensitive. People don’t want to talk. You have to cover something that you’re uncomfortable with. There is a lot of criticism to be made about your stories. But you learn so much from them, and you learn so much about how other people experience life.
When tragedies happen, it sucks being the person who calls victims or families of the victims, but I’ve learned that a lot of people are just waiting for an opportunity to share their story. So while you will run into lots of crying and upset people on the job, you will also get to be the person who lets their voice be heard.
I worked for a semester at the Iowa State Daily as a weekly reporter for women and science in engineering, which taught me a lot about writing for subjects that you don’t initially understand. This was also during the semester that tested me as a student because I couldn’t keep up with all my writing assignments, near-daily interviews for stories and my three jobs. I also didn’t feel confident as a writer.
I got another media job as a marketing intern at Octadyne Systems. This job challenged me because I had to learn a lot about research, analytics, copywriting and the marketing side of communications, but I really enjoyed it and I continue to learn a lot to this day. I will continue working here until I graduate in May 2020!
In my junior year of college, I took my first photojournalism class and it changed everything for me. My favorite classes in high school were my painting classes, and I did a lot of projects related to art. After that, I continued to take courses in photojournalism to get better at it, and I challenged myself to practice photography every single day. And the cool thing is – I started thriving in this medium!
I worked for the Iowa State Daily as a photojournalist. I had my photos bought by other publications. I had a lot of unique opportunities and became close with a photojournalism professor. My photos were shown at journalism conferences. And most of all, I felt really proud of myself for once.
Photojournalism lets me apply my love and knowledge of art while also getting to document history and tell a visual story. I think that’s what makes journalism so exciting – you get to be there, experiencing and then documenting history.
I also kept up with social activism, of course. I was on a lot of committees for events including Intersections of Identity (a spoken words event), guest speaker Simon Tam, Breaking Hate, IMPAACT (a leadership retreat for Asian-Americans), and various social events for multicultural students.
Aside from my extracurriculars, volunteering, multiple jobs and hectic coursework, I was also going from friend group to friend group, boyfriend to boyfriend. Pretty much every semester I was surrounded by completely different people. I got tired of it all and ended my junior year becoming a much more independent person.
In the beginning of my senior year, I got another job as the social media ambassador for Grammarly. I also challenged myself by signing up for a 6-credit course on political reporting. (I have events every week & short deadlines, and while it’s stressful I also am having so much fun!) I decided to start over socially and I made a lot of new friends, and I’ve become very comfortable with myself. I love spending time alone now!
My final semester (spring 2020) will be spent taking some fun courses and seeking employment.
The sad but true reality is that journalism is a difficult industry. A lot of publications are going out of business. You’re always going to deal with criticism and angry people. You’re working on short deadlines and in a very fast-paced environment. You’ll likely have to work nights and weekends. Sometimes your tasks are straight up unsafe. But I don’t really mind because I know that I’m doing something important.
I feel that I’ve gotten a lot of experience in communication, marketing and reporting and I have a general feel for what the industry will be like. I feel confident entering the job field and I’m not too worried about employment, but I am worried about the industry of journalism.
I don’t really know exactly what type of job I will get after I graduate. If I could have things my way, I’d want to become a full-time photojournalist and write a book on the side. But it’s not often that you find photojournalism positions that are full-time anymore.
I’m okay with not becoming a traditional reporter. Most of my internship experience falls on the marketing side of communications and media, and I think there are a lot of opportunities to be creative in that field as well. I also think that I’m a better content marketing writer than I am a traditional journalist, but that’s my personal opinion. For that reason, I’ve begun building a portfolio of creative and product photography along with my photojournalism.
I don’t really know what’s left for me. I am interested in going to graduate school for student affairs, but that won’t be for a while because I just want to work for a while. I want to move to Minneapolis, NYC or Colorado as soon as I graduate and start a new life with my cat Dubu (and hopefully get another cat soon after!)
I am terrified of graduating, but I am also excited and proud. I’ve grown so much as person and I’ve learned so much about the world. I entered college with a hobby in writing and art, and I will graduate college with a degree that lets me pursue those hobbies on a professional level.
Celeste, I am so proud of you. You went through a lot, but you’re still alive and well, and graduation is only a semester away. It’s only a matter of time until you can leave Ames for good and leave everything behind. I hope you get to start a new life filled with books, cats and high-quality coffee.