Growing up, academics were a central part of my family and life. My parents weren’t born and raised in the United States, but after marrying young, they moved to California to chase a better future for their kids than the ones that they had available to them. Being influenced by the inability to complete their own education past high school, my parents were set on having each of their seven children graduate from college, no matter what it took.
Coming out of high school, I had never been more unsure of myself because I had no idea what the next four years of my life would have in store, which was a thought that terrified me. I entered UCR as an English major after being encouraged by my highschool English teacher who convinced me that I had the talent and skills required to do so. I’ve always loved writing, but I never thought about actually pursuing it either academically or professionally. Just like I didn’t know that I’d graduate with a Bachelor’s in English, I had no idea that I would have the privilege of working with The Highlander.
Joining The Highlander during the first year of remote learning was a wonderful experience. In a time where many of us had our routines severely disrupted with no clear end of quarantine in sight, The Highlander gave me comfort. I had neither known nor met any of the staff before joining, but we still managed to meet on Zoom every week to develop a semblance of an office environment and to keep this paper going. Though working at the newspaper throughout this period gave me a much-needed sense of comfort, the time that I spent with it following the return to campus was the most exciting. I was suddenly experiencing a professional, yet casual, working environment made up of my peers, and I soon realized that this was the best first job that I could have ever dreamed of.
Being a part of The Highlander suddenly granted me a whole new world where I felt like I could be understood, one in which people could actually relate to and connect to my background. That is the power that comes from writing. It grants us the ability to share our deepest thoughts, our deepest hopes, our deepest troubles and, most importantly, to find similarities and connections between them. In this way, becoming a part of The Highlander felt amazing. I now had the ability to properly reflect the perspectives of the student population at UCR. I wanted it to be known that they had a voice and that we were a paper exemplifying that voice. More specific to my own background, I also wanted to give a voice to other first-generation Muslim students at UCR, who have been denied representation for so long.
In more ways than I can imagine, The Highlander gave me the voice that I desperately sought. I was granted the unique opportunity to be a proper journalist where I could cover any topic that matters to me, from world issues to film reviews. As I prepare to leave behind my college life and the newspaper, I know that I’ll forever look back at the time I shared with The Highlander with fondness and warmth.