Letter from the editor: UAA is what you make of it

The decision to start my collegiate journey at UAA was, like many other students’, based solely on finances. I wanted to graduate from college debt-free, so I worked hard in high school to earn scholarships like the Alaska Performance Scholarship and UA Scholars award. I went to college right after I graduated in 2017, pursuing a degree in journalism.

Even with all of the money I was saving remaining in-state for my education, I found myself longing for that “out-of-state college experience” like you see in the movies. Big football games, classrooms full of hundreds of students and an actual fall season. I was jealous of my high school friends that got out of Alaska, and I strongly considered transferring halfway through my second semester. 

Nevertheless, I continued to go to school at UAA and continued to remind myself that the money I was saving would be worth it in the end. It wasn’t until I really started getting involved with the university that I believed it. 

I started working at The Northern Light during my first semester at UAA. I’m a bit of a shy person, and as the youngest reporter at TNL, I just did my job and tried to keep to myself. Even though they were only a year or two older than I was, I was intimidated by my coworkers and everything they had accomplished.

After my freshman year of college, I moved into the Assistant A&E Editor position, where I grew a little more as a reporter and as a member of the staff. When the Copy Editor position opened up during the second half of my sophomore year, I was finally brave enough to apply in order to show my interest in moving up at TNL, but didn’t expect to be offered the position.

Much to my surprise, I did become the new Copy Editor. While in the position, I really broke out of my comfort zone as both a journalist and a person. Because of my experience at TNL, I was also accepted into an internship at the Anchorage Daily News, where I produced content for the paper weekly.

If you told me back during my freshman year of college that just a year and a half later I would have worked my way up to become the new Executive Editor, I would never have believed you. It was not something I believed I could do. But here I am, doing it (not always perfectly, but doing it nonetheless). 

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Even with everything that has been floating around about the University of Alaska’s budget lately, I haven’t considered transferring universities since my second semester at UAA. The staff and students in the journalism program, The Northern Light and the university itself mean too much to me to leave. I can’t imagine going to college anywhere else.

My story is a specific one, but the messages from it can be applied to anyone; putting yourself out there can be scary, terrifying even, if you’re anything like me. No matter how cliché it may sound, getting involved is one of the most important aspects of college (besides studying, of course). You will meet some amazingly talented individuals and gain some of the most valuable experiences of your life.

You also may not believe in your abilities (sometimes I still struggle with this). It makes it even more difficult to be confident if you, like me, compare yourself to those you feel are more accomplished than you. Take it from me, the shy freshman who kept to herself for the better part of her first year of college; you are more capable than you think.

Your time at UAA is what you make of it. You don’t need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get that “out-of-state college experience” or even a successful college experience. You just need to take advantage of what’s right in front of you, and make the choice to get the most out of your time as a student. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.


Caleigh Jensen

Executive Editor