Coming to UC Riverside, I had no expectation of being a part of Journalism in any way, shape or form. To be quite frank, everyone in my close friend group in high school was a part of the school paper except me. But the thought of being a part of the newspaper team and having an outlet for my creativity intrigued me. Transitioning to college provided the opportunity to truly delve into exploring my passions and interests, which led me to get more involved on campus. My goal, oddly enough, was initially to expand on my passion for stand-up comedy and performing arts. 

Our campus is known for hosting a vast variety of clubs and organizations, but approaching any was a challenge for an anxiety-riddled, freshman engineering student. Some clubs were too niche with their focus, others required tryouts and practices, and most simply did not appeal to my interests. But the urge to overcome the common UCR stereotypes meant that I had to explore. Through looking at club catalogs and the magic of tabling, I was made aware of the Highlander Newspaper.

Courtesy of Grace Sun
The Highlander – Courtesy of Grace Sun

Increasing my involvement meant taking whatever opportunities would arise for me. And in regards to journalism, I was still inspired by my high school peers to pursue this route and follow in their footsteps. And the Highlander being one of the most established clubs meant more stable opportunities. Knowing this made me decide on attending my first writers meeting but I didn’t know what to expect.

I still wanted to explore and hone my comic talents and wished to write satirical articles. While this idea was rejected (for logistical reasons I understand now), I was introduced to the Opinions section. My love for politics and history flourished as I would write a multitude of pieces detailing my thoughts and concerns on recent events and notable figures. When the pandemic came, one of the positive outcomes was the increase in time I could dedicate towards writing. Being promoted to a Staff Writer only gave me more motivation to write and expand my range to other sections. 

However, a particular thought would constantly inhabit the back of my mind. “I’m a Mechanical Engineering major! I need to get more involved in engineering clubs.” My drive to write articles every other week was starting to dwindle as the prospect of returning to in-person instruction arose. In hopes of bolstering my resume, I had resolved to stop writing and join an engineering-related club which could have marked the end of my journalism career. But then, the opportunity of leading the News section was presented to me with the blessing of the Editor-in-Chief, who served as the opinions editor I wrote under. 

Courtesy of Ayham Dahlan

Even prior to knowing about the office and other perks of the position, I decided to take the job as I had hoped this would be a step in the right direction in finding a place on campus and achieving peace of mind. The pandemic presented numerous struggles and harsh realities, and for many, was a time period characterized by loneliness through isolation. But it presented the chance to reflect and my desires were reshaped to find a community and a place to call home on my university campus. 

I was nervous at first, feeling like an outsider due to my starkly different major compared to my peers and unfamiliarity with working in a News office. But I did whatever it took to excel in the role I was tasked with filling. One of my fondest memories as an undergraduate was my first ASUCR senate meeting. I remember, vividly, pacing back and forth outside the senate chambers. I was timid, getting used to meeting people face-to-face, yet eager to take notes on a lengthy, bureaucratic meeting. But I was riddled with anxiety over the notion of dealing with the student body government; some would become future politicians, others would remain popular.

The Highlander – Courtesy of Grace Sun

But there was a drive in me that pushed me out of my comfort zone and necessitated that I find my voice. I recall taking a deep breath and formally greeting the first set of AS officials and eventually, taking the podium for the first time and presenting in front of the whole Senate, representing Highlander News officially. 

From that point onward, I gained the confidence and ability to utilize my voice effectively and eloquently. I adapted into a more extroverted individual, and felt reassured thanks to the positivity and support I received from both the Highlander News community and ASUCR. With my experiences conducting interviews of notable students and faculty, as well as presenting in front of the Senate and the Editorial Board, I gained a professional outlet that allowed me to express myself creatively, use my voice and feel heard, and work closely with a number of passionate individuals.

The role was not without its challenges and stresses. Ensuring that my section’s writers were accounted for and the rapid deadlines were met proved to be a daunting task during certain weeks. Oftentimes, articles would be pushed as writers needed time for their personal reasons, for interviews being rescheduled, or vice versa. Working with administrators and student body government had also certainly led to its fair share of drama. But all in all, being hired onto this position is truly a priceless gift that I would not trade for anything.

The Highlander – Courtesy of Grace Sun

I have been given privileges and opportunities that other students on this campus can only dream of. From shaking hands with Chancellor Kim Wilcox to standing directly in front of renowned artists at school-sponsored concerts, these are moments that I will cherish for a lifetime. And that’s in conjunction with the countless hours I have honestly spent napping on the couch, focusing on homework at my desk, or gossiping with the rest of the staff. 

The journey of becoming an editor had many unexpected challenges and rewarding experiences. My aim with my time at UCR was to develop into a well-rounded individual and create life-long memories with like-minded individuals. I achieved this through my position as a lead editor, which gave me the opportunity to exercise leadership and improve my interpersonal skills through managing a section and delegating responsibilities to my writers. Each and every day was a moment where bonds amongst the Highlander family were strengthened and laughter echoed throughout the office walls. 

My journey will now take me to graduate school at the University of Southern California to further my academic career in Mechanical Engineering. Being admitted in the first place was quite jaw-dropping and surreal. I have so many individuals to thank for providing me opportunities and experiences that allowed me to earn the honor of being able to attend such a prestigious university. 

I wanted to give a special thanks to the Editor-in-Chief I primarily worked for, Madison Rheins, for hiring me onto the Lead News Editor role despite my odd qualifications and ultimately giving me the opportunity of a lifetime. I also must appreciate Amaray Alvarez and Haru Chang for serving as wonderful Assistant News Editors who carried the section. Thank you to my fellow staff at the Highlander, past and present, for the memories that we’ve made and the growth we’ve experienced together. Thank you to my fellow UCR peers, especially those in renowned Engineering organizations, for the inspiration and support that I personally have treasured and appreciate heavily. Lastly, thank you to all the readers for continuing the Highlander’s mission of keeping you informed!

Thank you to all of you for giving me the motivation and inspiration to have made the most out of my college experience in the Inland Empire. Thank you to Highlander News for giving me a place on campus where I could belong, a place that I could call home.