Senior Column: Slowly, But Surely: A love letter to UConn (and by extension, The Daily Campus)

The author, then and now.

Dear University of Connecticut,

Oh, UConn, my darling, I wish I could say it was love at first sight. But if I did, I would be lying.

In high school, I told my friends I would go anywhere BUT the University of Connecticut for my undergraduate degree. The idea of going to a school in the middle of nowhere as a journalism major seemed like an oxymoron. I needed to be in a big city with lots of action in order to become an excellent journalist.

However, the mere existence of The Daily Campus helped me choose UConn. I was writing for my hometown’s weekly paper for my senior project. I had three headlines under my belt and I was hungry for more. I wanted to write powerful stories that people whispered about in the hallways and caused change. I knew I wanted to become a writer, and a daily newspaper was the perfect place to develop my craft.

When I arrived at Storrs as a freshman, I remember feeling small and overwhelmed. I’m always going to feel small; I’m under five feet. However, I felt I made a terrible mistake. I should have been in New York or Boston, where journalists are bred everyday. How is a daily student-run newspaper going to change my life?

But, this is how love works, correct? From enemies to a blissful romance?

My first experience with The Daily Campus was a strange, but memorable, one. I walked up the sketchiest wooden stairs with a broken beer bottle tossed to the side. My sneakers stuck to every step. I decided I would go to an Opinion meeting, as I have a lot of thoughts on everything. I walked down to the lower level and was surrounded by old newspaper clippings taped to the walls. I’m sorry, Opinion. I admire your work, but I spent that meeting reading all of the old News section articles on the walls. Opinion wasn’t for me. That night, I ended up taking a random story about coastal land research from the News budget. I haven’t stopped taking stories from the News budget since.

But, this is how love works, correct? Finding it in the wrong place at the right time? Opinion, you were my wrong place, but you brought me News at the absolute perfect time.

The author’s first staff writer byline, sent to her by former News Editor Gabriella DeBenedictis.

During my time at The Daily Campus, I have written easily over 150 news stories for the News section. Each one has a special place on my heart. Some of them have been written in strange locations, like on a bus or while I was dancing at UCONNIC. Some became more meaningful to me after their publication, like when my interviewees told me how meaningful a piece was to them. Together, every article made me the writer I am today.

It hasn’t been all romantic. I had people threaten to sue me. I cried many times over bad interviews, spelling mistakes and Oxford commas. (If you noticed, I did not use an Oxford comma here and it’s killing me inside.)

During my junior year, I knew I needed more writing experience. I really wanted an internship at a local newspaper or – to be crazy – a TV station. Somehow, I saw a posting for a marketing internship at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts. It caught my eye. I love the arts, and the position needed someone with excellent writing experience. Surely, my time at The Daily Campus would be perfect. I sent an email asking if they were hiring for Fall 2020. I had an in-person interview scheduled for March 24, 2020. When the pandemic hit, I thought this opportunity wouldn’t exist. Somehow, later in the spring I did a Webex interview and got the position.

I have spent the past year as both a remote staff writer for The Daily Campus and a remote marketing/communications intern for Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts. This was not how I pictured my senior year, but I could not be more proud of the work I have created with these two organizations.

But, this is how love works, correct? Putting in effort to make it work? No one said love was easy.

For The Daily Campus, I had to learn how to conduct Zoom interviews and find contacts for my articles when I was living over 70 miles away from campus. I had to get savvy on social media and persistent with my emails. I am proud to say I never missed a deadline this year, and I have produced some of my strongest articles.

For Jorgensen, my writing skills and my creativity were tested every single day. I had to venture into a new organization without meeting any of my co-workers in person. For the first time, I was writing press releases and marketing copy, something I had never even come close to doing before. I initially felt like an outsider trying to fight my way through. Who wants a news reporter to promote livestream performances? However, my co-workers truly welcomed me and allowed my writing and video editing skills to develop to the best they have ever been. I have had the privilege of working three Jorgensen events in person this past year, and I am in love with that performance venue and the people inside of it.

But, this is how love works, correct? Finding it where you least expect it?

Becoming a writer is not the only thing I have become during these past four years. I’m sorry The Daily Campus and Jorgensen, but you take a backseat here. UConn gave me all the experiences to help me grow. In that process, I have found some of my closest friends along the way.

We all started off with strange titles. There is my almost-college orientation roommate and two high school acquaintances. Now, we have a group chat where we text everyday, and I see them as my eco-friendly, cooler-than-everyone-else, aesthetically pleasing besties. (I know the two of you are going to hate the word “acquaintances,” as we were close in high school, but our friendship has grown so much over the years and the English language hasn’t invented the word I want yet.)

There is my freshman year next-door neighbor who moved in a day late. I couldn’t imagine college without getting breakfast with you almost everyday freshman, sophomore and junior year. I love ranting to you about everything and nothing.

There is my marine biology lab partner. I dreaded the class and wanted nothing to do with fish. I am a writer, for crying out loud, why do I need to learn about waves? I’m so thankful the only thing I retained from that class was our friendship. From road trips to Texas Roadhouse dinner dates, you helped me find adventure in everything.

A button given to the author by former News Editor Marlese Lessing.

There are my sophomore year roommate and two random people who would never leave our room, no matter how much I tried. Somehow, one of you never left my room and ended up my junior year roommate. You have roommate/bestie privileges for life, and I never want you to leave my room. As for the other two, you helped me become more spontaneous and break out of my shell. I see many dance parties in our future.

There is my fellow Tap Club dancer/allergy buddy. I have yet to meet another person who is almost exactly like me. Please stand next to me in any kickline, forever and always.

There is my almost suitemate. You’re my favorite to talk about all things pop culture, whether it be “Hamilton” or “Schitt’s Creek,” and I live for your voice messages.

Lastly, there is my remote co-worker. We started with work texts and Zoom meetings. Now, I text you paragraphs whenever something slightly interesting happens and you send me pictures of your morning smoothies. I make you custom memes and you buy me coffee to celebrate my last day of classes. I’m still in disbelief that we became so close despite only meeting in person three times. Who would have guessed in our first meeting that I would be writing a special blurb for you in my senior column? Thank you for putting up with me.

But, this is how love works, correct? Starting off as strangers and later, never wanting them to leave?

Then, there are always my friends from back home who have stayed by my side throughout my entire time at UConn. It hasn’t been easy keeping up with all of you, as we have gone off to do amazing things. If you are actually taking the time to read this, you know who you are. I love you all so much.

But, this is how love works, correct? Distance makes the heart grow fonder?

How does this all tie together? I would be a very different person had I not chosen to come to UConn. UConn, you forced me out of my comfort zone. You gave me a tiny room in North Campus and told me to make it work. I did. I have never looked back. The Daily Campus, you provided me with a glimmer of hope and you fulfilled on every promise. It’s been four wonderful years. Jorgensen, you were the place I did not know I needed, but I’m so lucky you took me in.

No matter where I go from here, I will always consider myself a writer. I am the journalist I wanted to become. To my friends, both from home and UConn, thank you for supporting me and allowing me to complain about all of my deadlines. Lastly, thank you to my parents, who encouraged my love of writing from a young age and have been by my side since day one.

So, UConn, instead of love at first sight, it was a love found slowly, but surely. I found love in many ways and Storrs, Connecticut will always have a place in my heart. It feels strange to end my time at The Daily Campus with emotions, instead of neutral and fair reporting, but I’m glad I finally get to tell my story. It’s truly a love story for the ages.

From your favorite staff writer,
Rachel Philipson


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