In just a few days, I graduate from Weber State University with a bachelor of science degree in communication, with an emphasis in multimedia journalism and a minor in technical editing.

When I first started college back in fall 2014, I couldn’t have imaged ending up where I am today.

My “dream,” or what I thought was my dream as a high school graduate, was to study medicine, specifically forensics, in college. After applying at multiple universities, I decided to stay local and attend WSU.

My first semester was rough. I took early morning classes, I didn’t make the time to get to know any of my classmates or professors and I didn’t pay a lot of attention to school work. Needless to say, my grades reflected all of these measures.

During my second semester, I made a friend in one of my general education classes. She mentioned she worked for Weber State’s student-led newspaper, The Signpost.

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Covering the Weber State men's and women's teams during the 2018 Big Sky Conference Basketball Tournament with Ariana Berkemeier. (Photo Courtesy: Cydnee Green)

I told her I did newspaper writing and yearbook photography in high school but never thought of pursuing those skills past that point. She told me The Signpost offered scholarships, and I immediately asked her where I could sign up.

I joined The Signpost as a photographer for a semester, and I can honestly say that is where my life as I knew it changed forever.

After working as a photographer, I thought I would try writing and applied to be a writer on the sports desk. As an amateur reporter, I had the opportunity at the end of the semester to travel to St. Louis, Missouri, and report on WSU’s men’s basketball run in the NCAA Tournament.

Walking into the arena, computer in hand and press badge around my neck, I was scared to death. I told myself I wasn’t cut out for this, and I almost convinced myself to turn around and go back to my hotel room.

Once I stepped foot onto that national stage under the stadium lights of the court, the jitters I felt were something I wanted to feel for the rest of my life.

At that moment, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my future.

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Covering the Weber State men's basketball team in St. Louis, Missouri, as they took on Xavier in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. (Photo Courtesy: Cydnee Green)

After returning from the trip, I walked into Weber State’s Communication Department, declared my major as multimedia journalism and applied to be the sports editor at The Signpost.

Since doing so, I have had more career opportunities than I ever would have if I stayed the forensic science (not-so-studying) hermit student I was when I started college.

I have traveled for Weber State’s newspaper to many other sporting events, including Big Sky Championship tournaments and NCAA regional games.

I had the opportunity to join the Society of Professional Journalists, through which I attended many conferences and get-togethers and discovered my individual passions and strengths as a writer, all the while building a better relationship with my community.

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My Weber Media standing in front of our received donations during our collaborative food drive, in Fall 2017. (Photo Courtesy: Cydnee Green)

All of these experiences have not only furthered my education but have been great resume builders as I get ready to enter the real world of journalism.

Because of the connections I made, I was able to do internships and freelance writing with local news organizations.

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Attending Ted Scripps Leadership Institution hosted by the Society of Professional Journalism in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo Courtesy: Cydnee Green)

I was nominated for and received a Pinnacle Award from the National College Media Association for my efforts on a semester-long investigative piece on how WSU athletics handles situations when student-athletes commit crimes.

I have made many lifelong, positive connections with professors who, the second they hear about a job posting in my interest, are forwarding me links and encouraging me to apply as soon as possible, accompanying that email with a letter of recommendation.

Most importantly, getting involved at The Signpost allowed me to create long-lasting friendships with people whose paths I would’ve never crossed if it hadn’t been for this change.

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Rocking Weber State basketball alumni jerseys at Weber State's first home game of the 2017-18 season with Gabriel Cerritos and Harrison Epstein. (Photo Courtesy: Cydnee Green)

I can honestly say I am walking away from this institution with not just an education but an experience that I will cherish for a lifetime.

My advice to you, incoming students, current students or students who feel like they aren’t getting the full college experience they’ve seen in all of the movies: get involved, and get involved early.

Because I got involved, I not only did better academically, but I found my passion. I made connections that will further me in my career, I made friends who will always be there to support my hopes and dreams and, most importantly, I made myself happier.

Now, don’t think you have to make the drastic changes I did to get involved, but something is better than nothing.

Practice not wearing headphones on campus and, instead, talking to those around you. When someone is passing out a flier, instead of putting your head down and ignoring them, take a second and listen to what they are inviting you to.

Join an organization that relates to your degree, or step outside the box and join one that has nothing to do with your degree.

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Attending the block part with Joe Traub and Daniel Ray. (Photo Courtesy: Cydnee Green)

Making these little changes to my daily life has led to some of the most rewarding experiences I have had in college.

If you want to make the most of your years here at WSU, don’t waste your time being a hermit. Get involved. I wish I would have much earlier.

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