What lies ahead


What lies ahead

By Amelia Garza

The years have dwindled down to months, then weeks, and now I’m approaching my last days as a Columbia student. I transferred here two and a half years ago, packing up everything I owned, spending all my hard-earned money from working as a server on my apartment, leaving me with a little over $1,000. I did not know what I was getting into, but I was ready to get away from the town I had lived in for nearly 15 years.

I remember my first semester here, taking introductory journalism classes with freshmen and sophomores who seemed much more capable than I was. My confidence in my writing and intellect that took years to build quickly diminished.  I was attending a new school with two years of college under my belt  yet feeling as though I knew nothing. There were times when I considered changing my major from journalism for the same reason I had decided not to apply to college as a senior: my fear of failure and rejection.

Many of my closest friends studied at large universities. Visiting them, I’d often get jealous.  Their lives were filled with large lecture halls where they were one of many; tailgates before football games where no one really cared if their school won as long as they got wasted and living in small towns where only three things mattered:  going to class, trying to get by and having a fun time while doing it.

I knew transferring to Columbia would not give me the traditional college experience. My largest class contained 22 students, and if I was going to afford eating and living, I needed to find a job. Instead of being surrounded by college students, I was living in the South Side, and there were definitely no college football games to tailgate—unless you count Quidditch tournaments.

I spent my first semester questioning my decisions, but four semesters later I realize Columbia provided me much more than what my friends at large schools were exposed to.

I appreciate the small classrooms because my voice was heard, my name remembered, and I formed amazing relationships with my professors and classmates whom I know will be catalysts for my career. Who needs tailgates and house parties when I had Chicago as my playground? And collegiate sports may be fun, but I got to celebrate the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup, the Cubs taking home the World Series and—legally—drink my sorrows away to Bears and Bulls losses.

I learned how to both succeed and fail gracefully. There were times I had to call my mom up for money, having spent too many dimes on Ubers and eating out. Teleprompters have broken on me in the middle of broadcasts, stories have fallen through last minute, and I’ve had countless sleepless nights trying to reach deadlines.

The failures seemed detrimental, but the rewards were endless. Professors have validated my writing with gracious words and support; I’ve had articles published, had the chance to meet inspiring broadcasters I grew up watching and made the greatest of friends in my classes, workplaces and neighborhood.

Four and a half years ago, I walked out of high school not ready to let go. Two years ago, I walked in Columbia with little knowledge of what lay ahead. Now, I’m leaving a completely changed individual eager to see what comes next. Thank you, Columbia, for giving this shy, self-conscious girl confidence to believe that no matter what happens after this, she can make it through.