Entering a New Era: A student’s feelings about leaving university

Graduation photos of Rodrigo Hernandez. Courtesy of Hernandez.
Graduation photos of Rodrigo Hernandez. Courtesy of Hernandez.

Saying that I feel uneasy about graduating is the understatement of a lifetime. Especially when considering that I am entering a polarizing election year and an unstable job market, it is safe to say that I am weary about what the future holds, though oddly optimistic. Remember, one must imagine that Sisyphus is content carrying his boulder up that steep hill in the Underworld. 

In junior high and high school, we are motivated by instructors who say university years will be the best time of our lives, while also disciplining us by saying, “Your professors won’t put up with that in college.” However, we know all too well that our wise and tenured professors will in fact put up with that, and sometimes encourage it. Why do you think people look back so fondly upon these years after all? 

The senior year. The culmination of all of the efforts since elementary school, aligning themselves with the milestone of achieving a degree in a chosen field of study. As daunting as it sounds to begin venturing into the real world, I do feel prepared in having to overcome challenges during my time in higher education. Being able to work through the COVID-19 pandemic is something that I believe helps me be able to persevere through uncertain times and maintain a goal throughout. 

Transferring to California State University, Northridge from Santa Barbara City College was a bit of an adjustment. However, I was able to find new ground, friends and experiences here in the Valley that have only enhanced the time that I have spent here so far. Besides applying for commencement, I did not feel that this year has been too different from previous ones. That was until I went to GradFest and saw my friends and I dressed up in caps and gowns for our portraits. That is when it hit me. 

The feeling was a mixture of pride, joy and the hard realization that my vibrant university life is coming to an end. Amid the chaos of other grads preparing for their portraits and photographers managing to keep order in the place, it felt as if everything slowed down and blurred just for a second, with the voices of the crowd blending into a muffled choir before being snapped back into reality by someone yelling, “Next!” 

Overall, I am looking forward to graduating and being able to pursue a career in journalism and art, but there are still some signs that prevent me from entering the market with full confidence. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 275,000 jobs were added to the economy in February of this year, the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that U.S.-based employers administered 84,638 layoffs — the highest for the month since 2009. 

In January of this year, we saw the Los Angeles Times dismiss 115 members of their staff, which was around 20% of their newsroom. In an era where many in tech, media and entertainment are worried about AI taking jobs, these layoffs do not seem to put the public to rest.

For journalists, we have to be able to adapt to any kind of situation or technological shift. From the printing press to pandemic-era Zoom newsrooms, different circumstances and advances in technology directly affect the careers of reporters and editors. Today, we see a shift to online content through websites and social media, while also seeing a resurgence of zines and smaller, independent print publications. 

The journalism department at CSUN has done its best to prepare me for an ever-evolving career that has such different trajectories for each person. While doctors and lawyers typically have clear set paths for how they advance in their practices, journalists often have to find their own way with the assistance of various internships, companies and mentors. 

As a first-generation college student, I feel motivated by my parents and family members who moved here from Mexico to pursue new opportunities and a better life. I recently thought about what I would be doing if I was born in Mexico, and I don’t think I’d be a journalist due to how dangerous it is for reporters in that country. Perhaps I would have found a way through art, photography or music. However, I believe that everything happens for a reason. 

This mindset is something I will keep with me as I move forward after graduation. Whenever I feel challenged, I think about how my parents felt having to learn a new language in a different country with a few relatives and still finding a way to be successful. The values of family, faith and discipline are ones I hope to continue holding and instill in my own family.

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