Senior column: Returning home

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Kim Nguyen is the outgoing associate digital editor of The Daily Campus.  Photo by Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus.

Kim Nguyen is the outgoing associate digital editor of The Daily Campus. Photo by Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus.

I came back to the University of Connecticut on a Sunday night. It was three weeks into the Fall 2019 semester, and I had a lot of catching up to do. I had just come back from studying abroad and interning in Vietnam. I could have spent Sunday night getting some much-needed rest and preparing for my courses but, instead, I drove 40 minutes to The Daily Campus. The editor’s meeting was at 8 p.m., and as Digital Editor at the time, I wanted to go.

I started having a panic attack on the way. I parked in W Lot and frantically texted a friend, telling them there was no way I could walk through those doors. I told her everyone would have forgotten about me. I thought I would be met with confused stares of “Oh, you’re back” or “What are you doing here, Kim?” or probably just nothing at all. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what would have been worse.

My friend told me I could walk through those doors and she told me why. For all the time I’ve been traveling, one of the first things I always brought up in conversation when I met new friends from around the world was The Daily Campus. I hyped up the paper so much; I enthusiastically recalled memories, articles and other shenanigans that I had gotten up to and expressed how sad I was that I would have to leave the paper eventually. Well, eventually came knocking.

I remember very clearly the nervous feeling I had when I first emailed the associate managing editor at The Daily Campus in 2016, Bailey Wright. I was a graduating high school senior, about to head to UConn as a Husky and I loved designing pages in InDesign for my high school newspaper … could I do that at The Daily Campus? I was already intimidated that the newspaper printed daily Sunday through Thursday; to design for them would have been a dream. 

I dug up the old cover letter I had written to The Daily Campus to apply to be a page designer. Here’s an excerpt of that cover letter:

I hope to learn even more about what InDesign has to offer, and be able to collaborate with others who share my interest for design, as I was the only designer and layout editor for my high school paper. I want to work in a more professional, high paced environment when it comes to a newspaper. I’ve had some experience with journalism through writing articles for the paper, so I can appreciate both the writing and design side, but my true passion is through placing articles.

I have read the Daily Campus and have used it as a reference for my own layouts when I was in high school. One of your writers had also urged me to continue at The Daily Campus. As an incoming freshmen majoring in Psychology, I want to stretch my creativity even more and continue my passion for layout design at the University of Connecticut.

Not only did The Daily Campus introduce me to the people I now call my friends and family, but I went beyond design and added a journalism major, dropping my medical goals to pursue a passion cultivated with the help of people I cared about the most.

When I came into The Daily Campus as a freshman, I was overwhelmed by the amount of energy and drive everyone had. That first night, I barely talked to anyone, put my head down and did what I knew how to do best — design. That first night, I didn’t go to bed until 4 a.m. because I was learning all the ins and outs. 


Kimberly Nguyen alongside Julia Werth, Molly Stadnicki and Stephanie Sheehan (left to right).  Photo provided by author.

Kimberly Nguyen alongside Julia Werth, Molly Stadnicki and Stephanie Sheehan (left to right). Photo provided by author.

Throughout that semester, I expressed myself through the music I played during my design shift and the pages I put together like a jigsaw puzzle. I grew more confident, especially thanks to the editor-in-chief at the time, Julia Werth, and my fellow photo guy sitting to my left, Amar Batra. You both have no idea how welcome you made me feel then. There were times when I almost thought I was too painfully awkward and shy to stay at the paper. There were times when I thought I would quit, and I’m glad I didn’t. Stephanie Sheehan, you rounded out the trio of people that made me feel so at home that first year. I thought you were the coolest person, and your mentorship and guidance, as well as recommending me for the position of associate managing editor later on, really helped launch me into my love of the paper.

I was adamant about not writing, even when Julia tried to wheedle me into writing an article or two for the section that I loved to design at the time: News. I was stubborn and told you that I was purely a page designer; that was all I had time for and it was a release from my classes. I couldn’t possibly do any more. 

Well, Julia, your words finally went through, and I started writing after you graduated. Let me tell you, that first article for News was horrendous. The power and magic of The Daily Campus is the skill of its editors, who helped me fix my piece and learn some AP Style. The confidence and mentorship the editors from The Daily Campus give to their writers, copy editors and designers makes them the true leaders of UConn.

The Life section truly helped me find my voice as a Vietnamese American at UConn. Through Life, I wrote about the Asian American Cultural Center, started my own column on my perspectives as an Asian American college student and wrapped up this year writing about Asian and Asian American artists. I forged friendships as I wrote those stories and made invaluable connections. Thank you, Julia and Melissa, for allowing me to write about a racial group on campus that I thought deserved more representation; I hope there is more of that to come. 

Along with dipping my toes into the writing world, I was going through a crisis. I doubted my ability to be associate managing editor and also did not want to be a future medical student. I was finding my love in media, and I didn’t want it to be just a hobby or something I did to escape. I wanted it to be a career path, but I didn’t have the words to form those feelings into actions, much less how to express them to my family at the time. Well, I still don’t know what I’m doing, but at least I know The Daily Campus provided me with close friends that listened to my nightly rants about what I wanted to do in life in 2018. Big thanks to you Charlotte Lao, Emma Hungaski and Molly Stadnicki, among others.

Stephanie Sheehan, when you asked me to be your associate managing editor in 2017, I didn’t know what you saw in me, but I saw the growth in myself to come after. I learned the ins and outs of production night, fell witness to the many nights of laughter, coming together to sing at the top of our lungs and even witnessed the fall of the basketball hoop from inside my office. My first office I’ve ever had in my entire life. Thank you for trusting me to do the job the best I knew how and lead an amazing team of designers.

I wanted to capture all those moments with a camera, and lo and behold, who fed my camera addiction and passion for photography more than The Daily Campus. The people whom I’ve met through that section were inspiring creatives who taught me to compose the world through a lens and capture it in its rawest form imaginable. Those same people who calmed me down when I took photos at Jorgensen and didn’t know anything about how to work with the lighting — it has to be a rite of passage at this point. My first photo adventures were with the motley crew that I met through the Photo section and still continue to stay in touch with: Nick Hampton, Jon Sammis, Olivia Stenger, Charlotte Lao, Eric Wang, Amar Batra and Judah Shingleton. 


Kim alongside Prachi Patel.  Photo provided by author.

Kim alongside Prachi Patel. Photo provided by author.

Adventures outside and during production nights were intense, crazy and long. I am forever grateful and in awe of my best friend, Prachi Patel, who heard all my crazy ideas for the paper, heard me rant and describe people she had never met before and opened the door for me once in a while when I locked myself out after a long night of production. You handled me coming into our rooms for three and a half years at UConn from late production nights, and I could not be more grateful. You’ve been there in the beginning for me since high school, and look, those late nights and waking you up at 1 a.m. and beyond were kind of worth it … right

Despite all my amazing memories at the DC, I have to face the fact I am leaving The Daily Campus as associate digital editor. But I feel confident that the paper will continue to be the best it has ever been and exceed all my expectations, as it has this year. 

Digital, you were a section that intrigued me and I had no idea how to run you, to be frank. Courtney, thank you for being by my side as we literally built  from the ground up one of the most improved sections of the paper. When I FaceTimed you after a class in New Zealand, in completely different time zones, we were still on the same page about how much we wanted the section to be the best it could be. We fostered a family that includes Grace, Laila, Cindy, Lucie, Mike, Conner, Avery and Sam. Grace, especially, I am so excited for the direction you will lead the section with Courtney. Don’t forget about the milkshakes I owe you all.

Alex Houdeshell, you were a fantastic managing editor who led and pushed everyone creatively. Thank you for your optimism during all those production nights and allowing me to be a designer one last time before I graduate. Anna Zarra Aldrich, I’m never removing my loud shoe energy sticker off my laptop. You lead the paper with a force as powerful as the sound of your shoes on the floor. 

To all the editors from this past year — Courtney, Peter, Harry, Melissa, Julia, Taylor, Gabby, Ashley, Kevin, Andrew, Eric and Hollie — I will miss giving you the analytics for the night, creating mood boards, sitting through ice breakers and bantering along with you before, during and after the meetings. It made me so happy to see you all, and honestly anyone who worked at The Daily Campus who waved at me, smiled or humored me with some conversation. I really valued those moments. We have all grown stronger as changes in the world have forced us to adapt the paper and how we run it as students in the most unimaginable way. We made history.


Kim and Courtney Gavitt, hugging.  Photo provided by author.

Kim and Courtney Gavitt, hugging. Photo provided by author.

Where do I go from here? I have no idea. The Daily Campus gave me all the tools and more that I know will launch me into wherever I want to go after UConn. It gave me many hats: designer, photographer, writer and editor. 

I’m feeling pretty selfish, though. I want one more production night of blasting music, trying to do my job but willingly allowing myself to get pulled into a late-night food run and getting a text from Prachi asking me if I’m going to be driving back home late from The Daily Campus again. And a Vernon Diner milkshake to celebrate the last night of production.

All I know is, when I returned to The Daily Campus that Sunday night, trudged up the back wooden stairs and opened the heavy door, the first person I saw was Courtney. She did a double take, and without a word, came over and gave me the warmest hug. I hugged her back, and knew I was home. 


Kimberly Nguyen is the outgoing associate digital editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at kimberly.nguyen@uconn.edu.

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