College Life Through the Eyes of Recent Graduate

Irene Cruz graduated from the University of California Irvine just two weeks ago. In just three years, she received a Bachelor of the Arts degree in Journalism, a major she did not initially think she would pursue.

Now, as she faces the next chapter in her life, she reflects back upon her college years, along with the grueling application process, first-day jitters, and disappointment from internship rejections. Through the ups and downs of Irene’s college career, she found incredible happiness and success, and she wouldn’t change a thing.

I sat down with Irene to talk about how she got started on her college selection process. She already knew she wanted to stay local. She also decided she would commute to campus instead of living in the dorms.

“I got a book from Barnes and Noble,” she said, “that had a list of all the 50 best colleges in California, both public and private. It listed all of their majors, strengths and weaknesses, the area, and it really gave me a good perspective on what each school would offer me.”

Initially, Irene had a pretty good idea of what she wanted to major in, with each one fitting under the liberal arts, humanities, or social sciences category. Since she was on a tight budget, Irene narrowed down her list to ten schools which she would eventually apply to.

“[The application process] was a bit stressful,” Irene remembers, “but it was also exciting because it made the whole idea of college a bit more real.”

Even though there were numerous essays to write and application fees to be paid, just the thought of going to college and starting this exhilarating chapter in her life superseded any nervous tension present.

“[The waiting] isn’t that much of a stressful process. If you have your backup schools, you’re bound to get into one of them…I do remember crying after being rejected by some of my dream schools,” says Irene.

But even though she would not be attending Stanford or UCLA the next fall, she would still step on the very prestigious campus of UCI. The university had all the qualities Irene was looking for, except for one thing: Communications.

“I originally wanted to major in Communications, but I looked into their [Journalism] program, and it looked interesting to me.”

She realized that journalism would help open many doors for job opportunities. Even though she wasn’t much of a writer, she knew she had a knack for it, so she decided on Journalism as her major.

Everyone gets butterflies in their stomach on the first day of college courses. Irene was no exception. On the first day, she arrived right on time to her assigned classroom, but no one was in attendance. She started to panic. She looked nervously around for someone who could give her an explanation. Luckily, a young man approached her, clearly able to see her confusion. He told her that discussion classes are always cancelled on the first week, and she had nothing to worry about. Feeling relieved, Irene laughed off her anxious jitters and went about her day.

After her first year, Irene realized that she needed to gain some first-hand experience in her area of study. She already had an on-campus job in the admissions department (a job she found through a family friend), but she wanted to start applying for journalism internships.

“At first I didn’t hear anything back, which made me kind of discouraged…I [later] sent out a wave of applications, and two days later, I received a response back from CBS.”

Irene was offered an internship by one of the most prominent media industries in the United States. In the spring of 2012, Irene travelled to Chicago to work as an intern in the CBS building for three whole months.

This internship led to another similar opportunity at NBC in the following summer. Located in downtown San Diego, NBC gave Irene the experience she needed to jump-start her future career as a broadcast journalist. She received training as a reporter and news anchor, which fueled her desire to be in front of the camera and report the news for a major media company.

Even with these time-consuming internships, Irene still found time to participate in some on-campus extracurricular activities. She enrolled in yoga and jiu-jitsu classes, both of which she really enjoyed.

With all of her great achievements in college, I wondered if there was anything she wished she could change about her college career.

“I definitely would have wanted to join more clubs…and participate in more extracurricular activities,” Irene claims.

Even though Irene did not live on-campus her first year, she still believes she received the entire college experience.

Irene learned a lot from her college career. She loved the school she attended, and knows that her experiences will bring her even more success in the near future. As for advice for incoming freshmen, Irene has a few tips for those young, anxious students:

  • Don’t wear high heels on campus. “I’m a very short person, and I like to be seen at a normal height…but now my knees are messed up from walking around in heels so much on campus.”
  • Take advantage of the Activities and Recreation Center. This is especially relevant for those wanting to avoid the “Freshman 15”.
  • Don’t be nervous. Just be yourself and be open to meeting new people. College is a whole new experience, and no matter where you’re from, people want to get to know you.

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Megan Heneghan

Megan Heneghan

Megan Heneghan is a junior at the University of California, Davis pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Communication, as well as a Spanish minor. She is originally from Orange County, where she grew up playing tennis. She is currently a member of the UC Davis Women’s Tennis Team. When she is not studying, she enjoys singing, reading, and cooking all different kinds of food. She also loves spending time with friends and family.
Megan Heneghan

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