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Farewell Column: Always ask why

So, this week, after registering for commencement, signing up for the senior boat cruise, and attending my final TNH meeting as a staff writer, graduation has become a very real, not so distant, apprehension of mine. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to begin the next chapter of my life, but I’ve begun to feel a little nostalgic and a little sad when reflecting on my time here at UNH; the friends I’ve made, the HoCo meals, the late night DHOP, the Monday nights spent in the newsroom. Oh yeah, and the classes of course. As someone planning to make a life off of words, know that I mean it when I say that I don’t think there are enough in the universe to describe how I feel about leaving the place I’ve grown to call home.

It took me two years to feel like I had found my niche here at UNH. I originally declared psychology as my major, but it was during English 401 with David Cataneo (shouts to David) that I began to feel confident in writing, and what’s more? I enjoyed it. Psychology was, and always will be, interesting to me, but I wasn’t passionate about it. I couldn’t see myself making it my life’s work the way I could see writing. So, I began taking news-writing classes my sophomore year and eventually declared English/Journalism as my major just before my junior year.

Anyone who’s taken an entry level news reporting class here knows that one of the most daunting sentences you can read on your syllabus is, “You will be required to have at least one article published by the end of the semester.” So, I went to my first Monday night contributors meeting and picked up my first pitch.

I continued to contribute to the paper here and there and finally applied to be a staff writer at the beginning of my senior year. Honestly, looking back now, it’s something I wish I had started a long time ago, because both the people TNH brought into my life and the experience it’s given me as a writer are unparalleled.

Not to say that it wasn’t hard, time-consuming work, because it was. But, it was just the practice I need to be where I am as a writer today. My progression became apparent in the contrast between the work I submitted as a contributor and the work I submitted as a staff writer. As a student preparing herself for the “real world,” I’d say that tangible proof that I’ve improved in my craft is paramount.

Of course, I attribute a lot of this to my professors, but knowing that anyone, and I mean ANYONE, can pick up a paper and read your work is a whole new ball game. At this notion, I noticed myself becoming much more critical of my reporting and writing, in the best way. Much more consideration was put into my sources, the questions I’d ask them, and which quotes I’d use to most accurately, and effectively, portray their story. These weren’t just pieces I’d submit to my professors for a grade and then never look at again. Now, my pieces didn’t just represent me and my work ethic, they represented my sources and an entire publication.

My voice doesn’t shake during interviews anymore. When a source tells me that they were afraid, I now know, instinctively, to ask “why?” Now, seeing my byline on any given page doesn’t feel strange or nerve-wracking. I have TNH, my fellow newsies and my niche to thank for that.

All anxieties aside, I feel confident and secure knowing that I will take what I’ve learned and the friendships I’ve made during my time at UNH, and specifically with TNH, past graduation and into my professional life.

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