I will never forget the moment I crossed through the airport terminal with my overstuffed suitcase and Build-A-Bear and waved goodbye to my family.
Only four short years ago, when it was still free to check a bag and Twitter didn’t exist, I started as a freshman at the University of Miami. Beyond guaranteed warm weather and scheduling all classes after 11 a.m., I didn’t know what would happen in the years to come.
Nights in the Grove that I wouldn’t remember if not for Facebook, and days in the library I wish I could forget were just a routine part of the college experience. Another four years, or twenty from now, what will still be a poignant memory is my first photography assignment for the Hurricane.
As a timid freshman, I showed up at an author coffee chat at the bookstore, shooting on automatic and praying I was doing it right. The editors at the Hurricane spent time editing one-on-one and encouraged me to continue taking assignments, even if they didn’t always make it in print.
Though my first assignment will always stay with me, the reason I became passionate for journalism and The Hurricane was a photojournalism class my sophomore year. Our class had engaged in a harsh critique of the cover image on the Hurricane- an illustration of a dolphin eating an orange.
Jim Virga, the professor that influenced me most at UM, challenged us not to complain about it, but to do something about it. I took that challenge as a personal mission. Who has the right to complain unless his or her own byline is on the chopping block?
For those of you who have picked up the Hurricane and found it less than exemplary, or seen a problem in any walk of life, I present you with the same challenge. It is so easy to find fault and criticize, but the true task is to make the change you wish to see.
My freshman year I could never have imagined I would be the editor in chief of The Miami Hurricane, but today I am on the last deadline of my college career. The last day of classes after 4 years, 8 semesters, 124 credits and over 100 deadlines as an editor at the Hurricane. I will never regret spending Sundays in the newsroom instead of at the beach, or missing classes because they got in the way of reporting.
The editors who came before me will never know how immense their impact was in shaping me into a journalist, so here’s to Matt Bunch and Greg Linch, previous editors in chief and two of the most driven journalists to pass through UM.
For those of you lucky enough to have a few more years here, take advantage of the copious organizations, mentors and opportunities the university and your fellow classmates have to offer. Your experience at Miami can be whatever you make of it, so make it count.
I am confident that my staff, whom I count as my closest friends, will continue to produce an even better paper next year. Our doors are always open on deadlines in UC 221B, so if you have a change to make, I hope you will be at the first editorial meeting next fall. Thank you for reading our publication and good luck to all fellow graduating seniors!
Chelsea Matiash is a senior majoring in visual journalism and art. She will be interning as a photojournalist with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel after graduation. She may be contacted at email@example.com.