I started writing for the Daily Campus in the fall of my junior year.
I went to a sports section meeting the Sunday after syllabus week with my friend Zac. I had just switched my major from electrical engineering to journalism. That was the toughest, but also the best choice that I’ve ever made.
UConn put me on academic probation after my fourth semester. I had just received straight Ds in classes ranging in difficulty from calculus 2 to some political science course I’ve already forgotten all about. I slept through a lot of classes, missed a lot of assignments and didn’t study a lot for exams.
My self-image changed for the worse my first two years of college. I went from a high school student that loved to talk about all of the most interesting things I knew to a college student that straight up didn’t care about anything. I thought I was smart with endless potential at 17 years old. By 19, I felt like a failure.
At the time I didn’t realize it, but my mentality was like this: Engineering work is too difficult and I don’t find it particularly interesting, but if I can just push my way through college, I will have a high-paying job waiting for me on the other side. I was good at math and science in high school, but man this stuff was different.
My first two summers in college, I interned at Electric Boat down in New London, Conn. My dad has worked there since he graduated college a trillion years ago, so he got my privileged ass a job there pretty easily.
I don’t think I can overstate how useless of an engineering intern I was. I couldn’t do most of the work that they’d give me, and I’d blame it on the fact that I was just scratching the surface of my engineering curriculum.
My second summer at Electric Boat was the last chance that I gave engineering. I just got put on academic probation and had to decide whether engineering was for me or not. After another summer of responsibilities limited to proofreading and taking notes in meetings, I walked away from engineering.
My parents were very supportive of my choice. I know the whole background of my dad working in engineering and setting me up with a job can lead one to infer he pressured me to be an engineer, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. He asked me often if engineering was really what I wanted to study and do for a living. He knew that it wasn’t for me before I did, but he would support whatever thing I’d say I want to do. After dropping engineering, I didn’t know what that thing was.
The undeclared void was scary. I didn’t like engineering. In fact, I hated it. But at least it was a direction. My only passion at that point in my life was sports, but I didn’t think I could make a living just by liking sports.
I met with my ACES (the undeclared major program) advisor and took on a journalism course load. I couldn’t see myself writing news or anything serious at the time, but man, I loved to talk about sports.
I was super self-conscious about my writing at first. I was under the impression that those in the writing disciplines were literary geniuses. I, on the other hand, went to my first news writing class without knowing who Woodward or Bernstein are. But man, I tried.
I tried really hard. I didn’t know if I tried because my back was against the wall, or if I actually started to care about the work I was doing. Now, I think it was probably a combination of the two.
I dug myself out of academic probation by the end of that first semester away from engineering and never looked back. I just kept writing, slowly building my confidence in myself as a writer. In the matter of a year, writing became a passion. That’s when college finally started to click for me.
Now, back to the Daily Campus. I remember writing a “UConn in the MLB” article right after George Springer won World Series MVP. I put a lot of time and effort into it, and I was pretty confident in the final piece.
I got a lot of positive feedback from friends, family and most importantly, Tyler Keating and Chris Hanna. They were the editor and associate editor at the time, and they offered me a lot of assignments for an unpaid campus correspondent. I never said no to anything. Then in the spring, I covered my first beat.
I covered UConn men’s golf that spring. It was fun even though I couldn’t cover any of the golf team’s matches because they were all so far away. Nonetheless, golf is one of my favorite sports and writing about it came pretty naturally to me. It was low maintenance, and the previews and recaps didn’t have to be very long. It was the perfect first beat for me.
The next semester was the beginning of my senior year. I officially changed my major to journalism, started considering communication for a double major and I covered men’s soccer in the fall with my then-associate editor Andrew Morrison. I knew that it was a sought-after fall beat, so to be a campus correspondent working alongside the associate editor gave me a lot of confidence. It made me feel like I was actually good at what I was doing, which was something that I hadn’t felt in college to that point. I appreciate that Andrew and then-section editor Mike Logan trusted me enough to cover that beat.
That season, UConn soccer had a forward named Abdou Mbacke Thiam who hit clutch game-winning shot after clutch game-winning shot. I don’t know why I think that’s important to mention, but the excitement of sitting in the press box and covering such a magical team might be what really sold sports writing to me as what I want to do for the rest of my life.
The rest is pretty much history. I took a fifth year of school for my double major and covered men’s hockey, softball, football, women’s basketball and about three weeks of baseball before COVID-19 canceled the world. I’ll cherish the work that I’ve done on these beats forever, but I will remember the people that I worked with even longer than that.
I covered hockey the winter following that soccer season with two talented staff writers, Bryan Lambert and Kevin Arnold. I knew Kevin from class and Bryan from Sunday staff meetings.
Kevin, like myself, was mostly quiet in class. He was a great example of a student that didn’t raise his hand to speak in class much, but quietly took care of business. That was the type of good student that I could see myself being at the time, so thank you Kevin for being that template.
Bryan was adored by the entire DC staff, produced great content and carried himself like a true professional while still being his goofy, funny self. He paired up brilliant pitches with hilarious jokes at every staff meeting and kept everybody smiling.
Covering hockey with Bryan, even for just a short time, taught me a lot about how to be a good reporter. He conducted himself unlike a student reporter, but like the other professional reporters at press conferences. Looking back, he was a role model of mine early in my journalism career.
Bryan graduated midway through the hockey season, so he was replaced by my great friend Jorge Eckardt. I’d have to write a whole second part to this column to cover everything Jorge has meant to me over my time at the DC.
He’s two years younger than me, but since I lost my first two years to engineering, we grew together as journalists. We covered all of the same beats from that hockey season all the way to my graduation (five beats over three semesters), became members of the DC staff at the same time, both decided to double-major with communication and took a ton of the same classes. We played rec basketball together (shoutout Mad Antz) and have played a lot of video games together during quarantine. Our bond is strong, and I’m excited to see what Jorge does with the rest of his time here.
Speaking of the DC in the post-Sean Janos era, I think they’ll get along fine. The new editor Danny Barletta and his associate editor Conner Gilson are pros. I watched Danny cover the football team for UConn Athletics while Jorge and I were on the beat this last fall and he worked his ass off. Between the Daily Campus, UConn Athletics and UCTV, Danny has immersed himself in covering UConn sports.
I always anticipated Conner’s columns because he created loads of NBA content and had hot takes that I enjoyed (I can’t stand the way Russell Westbrook plays either). I’m going to keep on reading The Daily Campus, so keep it coming Conner.
Last but not least, there’s Mike Mavredakis. It’s actually mind-boggling to me that Mike is only a sophomore. He is one of the most mature student-journalists that I’ve ever met. You can look up the word “professional” in the dictionary and if Mike’s picture isn’t there, I will eat my hat.
I’m a firm believer that it’s the people that make experiences great in my memories. Nostalgia, at least in my mind, is primarily attached to the people I met. I’m sad that I’m graduating and leaving the Daily Campus, but I cannot be happier with the people that I’ve met and the memories that I’ve made.
In short, I thought I wanted to be an engineer, wasn’t cut out for it, tried sports writing, loved it, met some great people and now here I am. Graduating.
What’s next is a mystery. I don’t have a job lined up, and COVID-19 has made the job market uncertain. I may not know what’s next, but I’m confident I’ll be able to figure it out. College taught me that I’m capable of facing situations like these.