As an international student, my college plan was simple – blend in, be successful and find enough friends to create unforgettable memories with. Well, that was easier said than done considering the number of exaggerations and unrealistic scenarios that media conveys of life in America.
Though, since the very first day of college, I knew I wanted to pursue writing for the college’s newspaper, this was three years ago – a 17-year-old English Literature freshman who wanted to be involved with student organizations and achieve great accomplishments, but at the same time suffered the inevitable fear of missing out (FOMO) and also the overwhelming change of surrounding.
“I want to write for the college newspaper,” I kept saying to my then-friends, “But there’s time, I’ll do it next year.” Say that for two years in a row and you’ll end up like me – three changes of major and still not a single idea of what you want to do in life. From being an English Literature major to an English major, even spending a semester as a student in the Paul College of Business and Economics, I ended up where I am right now, the English/ Journalism department. At first, I was skeptical about this major as I just needed a focus of study to get through college, but take it from my experience, the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) Journalism Department is more than just a backup plan.
I was lucky enough to have been graced with the Holy Trinity of UNH Journalism – Angela Anderson-Connolly, Lisa Miller, and Tom Haines. Professor Miller gave me a chance for a spot in her introduction class even though it was full; Professor Anderson-Connolly made me fall in love with the reporting industry and taught me how to be a versatile writer; Professor Haines helped me sharpen my skills as a journalist. Aside from my peers from The New Hampshire (TNH), I am where I am because of these three faculty members.
Being a journalism student, you’d eventually end up writing for TNH. That was how I started as a contributing writer – mainly for the extra credit in Professor Anderson-Connolly’s class, but I ended up loving the experience and felt a glimpse of success when I fulfilled my freshman dream. I am not going to lie, it’s also “pretty cool” to have your writing published!
After contributing four articles, I was offered the Staff Writer position, and so, my journey as a “legit” journalist began. As a rookie, the front page seemed so coveted – the Harry Winston of all diamonds they say. “I want to be on the front page!” I told my best friend.
Countless weeks passed by and though I had given up on making it to the front page, I have learned to understand why the reporting industry is vital worldwide. I often find that my best articles were always on issues that I believe matter, issues that I am passionate about, and especially issues relating to international students. What seemed to be an extra credit assignment at first has turned me into a part of a very important component in the UNH community – thank you, Angela!
On March 5, 2021, I woke up to a reminder on LinkedIn – it was my one-year anniversary working for TNH. I was excited, of course! To see all of the great things that I have achieved within a year, all of my articles which I hope had some sort of impact towards my readers, and also to reflect my journey and growth as a journalist. I always pick up the newspaper on Friday mornings to read my articles – I’ve got a thing for reading hard copies. And there it was, “By Staff Writer Aqeel Hisham,” appeared on the front page. At that point, I wasn’t as excited as I hoped to be, but it’s because I’ve learned that all stories matter, regardless of the page. I could say that this achievement was just the cherry on top of a great college career.
I’d like to thank everyone at TNH, especially Executive Editor Josh Morrill for always being kind, calm and understanding; Managing Editor Anna Kate Munsey for being the ray of energy during our weekly meetings; Content Editor Hannah Donahue for the endless compromise made for deadlines and answering my never-ending questions; Staff Writer and my first ever podcast partner Isabelle Curtis for always hyping me up and keeping me in-check; and everyone in between!
I wonder what I’ll be doing on Mondays at 6 p.m. for the next few years?