From failure to total fulfillment

By JeffGraveline

When I transferred to Columbia two years ago, I felt out of place. I was a sports-loving 22-year-old guy who wore jeans and T-shirts that didn’t come from the girls’ clothing department. My hair was long, but it was all one color and I didn’t wear non-prescription glasses because the frames were chic or ironic. I was a state school kid in an art school world, and it kind of freaked me out.

My first semester here, I kept my head down, did the work I was assigned and went home to the suburbs when class was over.

I took classes in my new major, sports journalism, and I loved it. I learned from professionals, people I respected and read. I received tips and insight into how the world treated the media from people who worked in my field. The classmates I sat next to may have seemed a little off to me, but the classes and the knowledge I gained didn’t.

Since the first time I watched “Bill Nye the Science Guy” in fifth grade, I was actually enjoying school.

During my second semester, I enrolled in the College Newspaper Workshop class, which was basically an internship at The Chronicle masquerading as a class. On the first day of class, I got into an argument with the former editor-in-chief about the lack of sports coverage in the newspaper.

The hour-long exchange resulted in nothing more than me feeling shut out and her telling me, “Columbia kids don’t care about sports or things like that.”

Even after the heated exchange, I still applied for a full-time position at The Chronicle. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the Metro section, thinking I could weasel a sports story in each week. Luckily for me, the new management team at The Chronicle decided to create the Health & Fitness section, a place for health, science and, most importantly, sports.

As I settled into the routine of working at The Chronicle, balancing classes with work and finding stories, I learned a lot about myself and my abilities. I saw that my job would soon become my career, a career I would really enjoy. Work isn’t work if you enjoy what you do, and I enjoyed my time at The Chronicle more than I probably should have.

The Chronicle became my home at Columbia. I worked in a newsroom full of students who shared my passion for journalism, who cared about news and issues. I built friendships with my co-workers based on our shared experiences at the newspaper and at Columbia—friendships that I hope will last much longer than just my time at this school.

As I sit here haphazardly, spilling my thoughts about the past two years of my life, I can’t help but smile at the things I’ve accomplished. I’ve gone from sports weirdo to a respected—if only in my own head—sports journalist. I’ve worked with and for the best people Columbia has to offer.

I made my time here my own and did the best I could, and for that, I am proud of myself and proud of Columbia. This college has made me the journalist I am today, an award-winning 24-year-old with a full-time job in the field I’m trained for.  For that I say, “Thank you Columbia.”

I also want to especially thank my parents. They’ve put up with eight years of college, several job transitions and put more money into my education than I could have ever imagined. The two of you have always told me I can do anything I wanted. You had blind faith in a son who didn’t always make the best decisions or live up to his potential.

Well, your faith and encouragement paid off. Finally, I am a college graduate and I know that makes you proud.