Her Campus Drexel Panel Discussion

Earlier this spring, I had the exciting opportunity to speak to Drexel University’s Her Campus chapter as a panelist for a Women in Journalism discussion. When the Her Campus Drexel team reached out to me, I honestly thought they had the wrong person. My day job is in marketing, which is definitely media-related, but it’s not what I expected to build my career in when I was studying journalism. (Actually, at Fordham, marketing wasn’t even included as a communications concentration — it was a business major!)

Honestly, I was tempted to decline the invitation — what advice do I have offer soon-to-be college grads, when my professional life hasn’t gone as planned? Then, I remembered that my New Year’s resolution was to push myself, so I said yes. I put the panel on the back burner, and the week of the event I found out who else was on the panel: Katy Zachry, a NBC10 reporter; Jenice Armstrong, a Daily News columnist; Aubrey Nagle, a Philly Voice producer…and me. I freaked out again, sucked it up and went along with it.

HC Drexel Women In Journalism

Being back on campus, even if it wasn’t my college campus, was bizarre, especially since I now felt an expectation to be some sort of authority figure. Two years ago, I was still a student, feeling over school but also over my head about the real world. So I totally surprised myself when I had answers to students’ questions, and when they seemed to be receptive to some of my advice. Just craziness.

Listen, I never really wrote about it much here, because I was too busy living it, but the college graduation transition is difficult. There are so many decisions to make, and I ended up choosing my personal life over my professional life. It may have seemed unwise to some, but it didn’t mean I was entirely discounting the latter for the former. I was not in the place where I was ready to throw away a relationship to pursue a difficult career path I wasn’t 200% sure about (because that’s the attitude you need to make it in print or digital journalism). Of course, ideally, I wouldn’t have to choose, but that’s not how life works. I think it’s good for young women (and men) to hear that, and know that it’s okay to make the unpopular choice.

Since I made that choice in my own life, I’ve had my moments of doubt and uncertainty, but I haven’t had regrets. There were sacrifices I was willing to make (leaving New York) and sacrifices where I drew the line (uprooting every 1-2 years to move to a different market). Being able to say that aloud to a crowd of 30 or so students, though, made me realize how much I meant it. Afterwards, Katy and Jenice (who are well-establsihed in their respective careers) told me how interesting they found my perspective, and I was super appreciative of that.

HC Drexel Women In Journalism

And obviously, I learned lots from my fellow panelists (I mean, I’m only 24). I think HC Drexel did a great job organizing the event, because we were four women in different media tracks at completely different points in our careers. It was inspiring hearing how Katy and Jenice dealt with inequalities in the workplace (not so great that that’s still an issue…). Our advice on how students can get started in the media world was also so different, which was pretty cool. One student even came up to me afterwards to ask more questions, which was the coolest!

HC Drexel Women In Journalism

Thanks again Kiarah and the whole HC Drexel for having me! It was a great learning experience, and I hope the students got as much out of the evening as I did.

~ Sarah

Cinco

How’s this for crazy: I published my first post here on Shades of Sarah five years ago. Five. Years. Ago. I was still a teenager! Twitter was just starting to become a mainstream medium, and Instagram and Snapchat didn’t exist yet.

#canteven

Shades (as my college friends lovingly refer to this space) was not my first foray into blogging. Back in eighth grade (which, oh my goodness, was 11 years ago) I started a Xanga because well, a friend I met on a cruise had a Xanga, so obviously I needed a Xanga to stay in touch with her. My theme colors were hot pink and lime green because, duh, I still worshipped at the alter of Lizzy McGuire. (Really feel like I’m aging myself here.)

I guess I’ve always been a new media geek. Along with Xanga, I participated in a few online forums, like Craftster during my pre-Pinterest DIY phase. I remember being part of another independent forum where teen girls chatted about boys, shopping and celebrities after YM (now I’m really dating myself) folded its own forums.

Oh man. I even had a Neopets account. (It was the best, but if my full on geekiness has overwhelmed you, it’s okay if you close your browser window.)

I rediscovered what I would say are more contemporary blogs (because this medium is always always changing) my second semester of college. I remember Googling what to wear to class on cold, rainy days, because as a Floridian I was (and remain) fully unequipped to deal with the weather in the northeast. I landed on CollegeFashion.net, and it was like a whole new world opened up.

After a few months of reading CF and a few other personal style blogs, I decided I was ready to throw my proverbial hat in the ring. When I was home from college, I brainstormed names and registered on WordPress while watching Roy Halladay dismantle the then-Florida Marlins. My first header was an image of lavender fields pulled from We Heart It.

My, have times changed.

The first summer I blogged, I wrote about anything and everything: politics, baseball, the World Cup, the environment, shopping, movies, Colombian candy. Some of those early posts are still some of my favorite. Now the ideas behind my blog are slightly more in focus (see the tagline above), but I still love all those things. I have Frunas on my kitchen table and I get excited when I get home in time for the evening news.

And offline? Wow. I did my first internship (serendipitously, at Xanga, and partly thanks to my blog) and too many more after that, but at some of the coolest places. I acquired like 12 roommates (not all at once). I fell in love. I wrote a thesis (for a degree) and presented my own research (on bloggers!) to an audience (for fun). I volunteered in San Diego and the Dominican Republic. I graduated college. I moved to a new city. I started over. I got my first part-time job, and eventually a my first full-time job. I adopted a dog. I was a bridesmaid. I learned (a lot) and I grew up (some).

Five years is a long time, but one constant has been this space. So thank you. Thank you to my real life friends, my online friends, the lurkers, and the friends that are all of above. Thank you for reading, commenting, emailing, favoriting a tweet or liking an Instagram, telling me you liked that thing I wrote and not making fun of me (to my face). To be honest, I do this for myself, but you guys make it even better.

So I propose that on this rainy Monday (excellent start to June, right?), we all treat ourselves, whether it’s to some wine or gummi bears, because you rock just for reading this. I treated myself to this pretty new online space (and maybe a chai latte), so I say it’s only fair.

Thank you,
Sarah

To My Teachers

I almost always liked school, but when you’re in the thick of it with classes, I think it can be harder to appreciate your teachers. These are the people who are assigning you readings, essays and (dreaded) group projects. Now a couple years removed from college, I can look fondly on more than a few.

Eagle Point & Gator Run Elementary Schools

Ms. Kabat, Mrs. House, Mrs. Mitchell: My kindergarten, first grade and third grade teachers, respectively. Just really nice, sweet ladies who made elementary school pretty fun. Really though, I loved all of my teachers during this time.

Tequesta Trace Middle School

Mrs. Huff: She was my Language Arts (English) teacher in 6th and 8th grades. We read some good books and did a lot of writing. I still remember in 8th grade she had us write our weekly quote reflection on this Yogi Berra gem: “it ain’t over til it’s over.” And then the Red Sox became the first team to come back and win the league championship series after being down 3-0. And then they won the World Series. Thanks for nothing, Alex Rodriguez.

Ms. Euler: She was my drama teacher for most of middle school. Once during a rehearsal she said she wanted our audience to say we were good, not cute, after a performance. That always stuck with me.

Mrs. Barrios: I always liked American history. I have the American Girl and Dear America books to thank for that. This class though was the first time I was unabashedly enthusiastic (and competitive) about it. I now have a degree in American studies and debate going back to school to teach American history at least once a year.

Cypress Bay High School

Dr. Lyons: Oh man, I might cry writing this because he was such a powerful influence on my life in high school. I took Latin for four semesters in high school (the best way to practice for the SAT verbal and avoid giving class presentations in a foreign language) and then was an office in Latin Honor Society for two years after that. I participated in a language competition (and medaled) and took my first AP exam for Latin (the preparation involved translating long exercepts of The Aeneid, several times over). I was one of a handful of students to go on a class trip to Rome and Athens, and one of the others is still one of my best friends. So basically, I spent a lot of time with Dr. Lyons and in his classroom. While I always struggled with math and science (even if I did relatively well, it didn’t come easy to me once I got to pre-algebra and beyond), this was the first time I really had to push myself to do well in a humanities class. Latin is hard, and I lacked a decent foundation on grammar, so learning Latin grammar (on top of conjugating and whatever else I don’t remember) was a lot of work. Anyway, what I remember of Dr. Lyons is how high his expectations were, and how he would bend over backwards to make sure you met them. He was exceptionally generous and welcoming. (Dr. Lyons was also the advisor for our school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, so I know he has had an incredible impact on hundreds of other students over the years.)

Mr. Pedersen: My junior year of high school I took AP calculus, despite my boyfriend at the time asking me if I could handle it (we were together over another year after that, for some reason). Sometimes I didn’t believe I could handle it (I cried at the post-exam pizza party) but Mr. Pedersen made sure all of his students could. I passed with a 5 and never had to sit through a college math class. I’m eternally grateful, and told him so.

Ms. Farbriaz: Farbi, as we affectionately called her, is one of those crazy inspiring teachers everyone should have the pleasure of having at least once. Her English composition class was really like a how-to guide to life. I visited her once after I had just turned twenty, and she advised me to just live my life, no strings attached, for the next 15 years. I didn’t exactly listen (says the girl living with her boyfriend and their dog), but there’s still something to say for a teacher who is so real with you.

Mr. Adzima: So how weird is it that AP U.S. History was probably the most fun I had in a high school classroom? Sorry, history teachers just have the best stories (duh). Mr. Adzima also was the first to warn me that after undergrad, you’ll never be with as many people your age again (weird but totally true!). Bonus points for his class being the one that I really clicked with and excelled at.

Mr. Doster: His television production classes were the first time I started really considering pursuing journalism, so that was an absolute game changer.

Ms. McNeely: I loved her every second I wasn’t terrified of her; she was a bundle of sass and snark unlike I had ever seen before. Also gave excellent book recommendations.

…I really liked high school, sorry.

Fordham University

Dr. Hassett: Her class was the only I got to choose my first semester of college. I was totally weird and wasn’t looking forward to college at all, but her literature course on New York City writers helped. I went to one of her lectures as a senior and despite me never keeping in touch, she remembered me, which was a damn good compliment.

Dr. Knobel: I was never actually her student, but she was our advisor at the paper and one of the first professors I met when I arrived on campus. Her advice, support, and time were always appreciated.

Fr. Tueth: The sweetest movie-loving Jesuit priest I ever met (he may or may not have skipped mass one day after he saw Uma Thurman in the city). I always appreciate film buffs who embrace the low and high brow parts of pop culture. His classes were fun and engaging (the exception during my time at college, unfortunately), and not needlessly difficult — all of which were appreciated, especially as a senior.

Dr. Marwick: I’m not sure what I expected when I registered for her social media class fall my senior year, but it wasn’t a role model who helped change the course of my last two semesters. (Sorry, would you like some wine with that cheese?) Her class was engaging and she was genuinely interested in what her students had to say. She just got it, and she got us (and gave excellent career/life advice). After her class, she worked with me to turn my final paper (on blogging!) into a full-blown research presentation, which is totally what most journalism students do their last semester of school.  She helped me love media as a field of study.

And of course, a special thank you to my own mom. Not only was she one of my first life teachers, but she also taught kindergarten for over a decade. As the daughter of a teacher, I don’t think anything can make you feel prouder than hearing the impact that your mom has had on her students.

~ Sarah