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Finding My Passion for Journalism

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Alyssa Rotunno

People often say that every college has its own unique culture. However, we all know that American University takes that to a whole new level. There is no way to describe the atmosphere to those outside of this school...except maybe through one story.

When I was a freshman, living in the Anderson dorms, I was in my room when I heard an uproar of screams and chants coming from the lounge. I figured there was a football game or something of the sort on TV, so curiously, I walked out of my room, lanyard in hand, to see what all the fuss was about. However, when I walked through the doors of the lounge, what I was greeted with was an election poll projected onto the TV. A literal live-count of votes with all my floormates cheering and screaming with every update.

As much as I love this story, at the time it scared me. I never had a passion that strong for anything in my life. And here I was, surrounded by people who knew exactly what they wanted to do with their lives.

Now, I have a little confession to make - I wasn't always an SOC student. In fact, I came into American as an Audio Tech major, but soon realized I was just not that good at science. So by sophomore year, I was undeclared and looking for my passion, I wanted something to scream about just as my classmates did in the lounge. And, as I'm sure you have all felt during some point of your college careers, I was afraid I'd never find that type of passion.

Yet by some twist of fate, I took a class called "Understanding Media" with Professor Rebecca Cooper. I didn't go into this class thinking it would change my career path, or my life. Like I'm sure a lot of you can relate to, I simply wanted to check off another box on my gen-ed list. Yet, as I listened to professor Cooper talk about the importance of the media and all her crazy, exciting stories as a journalist - I realized I was sitting at the edge of my seat and, slowly, I felt that same passion bubbling up inside me. So, I quickly changed my major to journalism.

The next semester, I took "Writing For Communication" with Professor Doug Hecox. I walked into the class, my brand-new AP Stylebook in hand, ready to become the next great journalist. Now, anyone who's had him knows exactly what I'm about to say, but I'll tell the story anyway. I sat down along with my classmates as Professor Hecox looked us all in the eye and said to us, "You all suck at writing. But that's okay, I'm here to make your writing suck less."

I was absolutely petrified. Again. What if my writing sucks? What if I'm not meant to be a journalist? All these thoughts rushed through my mind. But I persevered, as everyone at AU has had to.

It was hard work and a lot of late nights at the lib, but by the end of the class, I wasn't as afraid as I once was - and, as Professor Hecox promised, my writing definitely sucked way less.

But there is also so much more to SOC than just the amazing professors. I will never forget the countless hours, many laughs, and also tremendous amounts of heartache I spent at the Eagle, AU's student-run newspaper. Though my classes had taught me so much, The Eagle is where I truly enhanced my writing skills, my reporting skills and, it is where I learned how to be a leader. As a managing editor, I spent a lot of time in that office with people I now consider life-long friends. And had I let fear control me, I would have never switched my major to journalism, or stayed in Professor Hecox's class - and I would've never found those moments.

Truly, I was never able to find that passion where I chant and scream like my freshman dorm-mates had. I did, however, find something even more special. Us SOC kids are the ones who went to the protests and rallies, not to chant along, though we really wish we could have, but to record it. To take notes, and to later write an article and report about it. SOC kids are not the ones screaming and yelling our opinions, though we do have them. But rather, we are the ones listening, the ones writing, and the ones making a difference.

After four nerve wracking years, I can honestly say that writing this little love letter for you all to read is the most terrifying thing I've ever done. But isn't life all about doing things that terrify you? And I know that going out into the supposed "real" world is probably the scariest thing to us all right now. But I also know that with the passion we all share, the drive we've cultivated, and the skills we've learned in the School of Communication, that we'll all be just fine. Even when we're afraid.


Alyssa Rotunno is a print journalism major and studio art, multimedia minor from Long Island, New York. During her time at AU, Rotunno was a member of the sorority Sigma Delta Tau as well as their Executive Board Secretary and New Member Educator. She was also a managing editor of multimedia at The Eagle, AU's student-run newspaper. After graduation, Rotunno plans to move back to Long Island and pursue a job in New York City.