When I was in the fourth grade at home in Brooklyn, our teacher asked us to write a journal entry about the one place in the world we would love to visit.
I picked Buffalo.
My teacher was flabbergasted. In giant red marker-scrawled letters, she commented at the bottom of the page: "You know it's very COLD in Buffalo, don't you?"
I didn't know much about Buffalo at the time. The only reason why I picked Buffalo was because my aunt, uncle and cousins had recently moved there, and I missed them already. I had only heard about the "icebox" weather and "snowpocalypses." I envisioned Buffalo residents crawling through snow tunnels to get around. I didn't even know the University at Buffalo existed.
I don't believe in coincidences, and I think that childhood journal entry was an indication that I was meant to be here at UB.
My greatest anxiety about beginning at UB was that I wouldn't be able to find my niche – a community that I fit into on a campus of nearly 20,000. I longed for a support system, and, to my surprise, I found several – both at UB and in the surrounding community.
My Uncle Anthony and Aunt Dawn, living only 10 minutes away from North Campus, were my first support system. From day one, they gave me keys to their home and told me that I could call or visit any time. They invited me for holidays when I didn't go home, and filled this hungry college student with a generous amount of good food. They introduced me to the world of Buffalo sports; my cousins' schedules were jam-packed with baseball, football, and hockey games. I watched my first Sabres game with them, and really, it wasn't too painful – even though they lost.
As a Catholic committed to keeping my faith alive in college, it wasn't long before I found faith-based communities. The Newman Center soon became my faith home away from home. I sang at Student Masses, refueled and socialized at Wednesday night dinners, attended retreats, and served on alternative spring break trips. Father Pat recently told me that he is going to cry when I leave, and my response was "me too."
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship helped me view my faith in a new light – not only as something personal, but also as something to share. And yes, I can be a "contagious Christian."
I learned that I wasn't just another number at UB. A few dedicated professors have advised and mentored me one-on-one, encouraging me to become the student, writer and person I hoped to become.
With the guidance of my first journalism instructor, Charles Anzalone, I became passionate about journalism, and I faced a personal challenge – my stuttering – head-on for the first time. He went above and beyond his teaching responsibilities to make sure nothing held me back from becoming the journalist I have the potential to be. He has always been on the sidelines cheering me on, encouraging me to let my voice be heard.
Before I began at college, many people told me that these four years would be a chance to "come out of my shell." Little did I know that I would not only come out of that shell, but stomp on it and shatter it into pieces. The support of the National Stuttering Association Buffalo chapter members has helped me to finally be able to speak (and write) openly about my stuttering.
The story of my experience at UB would be incomplete without talking about my time at The Spectrum. The road from a timid news desk staff writer to a managing editor was not an easy one – hunting down sources, covering stories on production days with only hours to crank them out, and, most recently, staying in the windowless office at ungodly hours editing flats – but it was all worth it.
I loved being "in the know" at UB, advising students when they should exude pride in their academic home and when their university fell short of their expectations. I loved seeing my name in print, valued the teamwork that went into this paper, and I will miss all of my fellow editors when I graduate.
I stopped by the office last Tuesday on the first day of trial week. It was past midnight and the staff, though tired, was still passionate about their work.
And that sums it up. When I begin at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in the fall, I hope to hold on to that very same passion.
On my journey to a journalism career, UB gave me my lead. I'm still uncovering the details.