The college experience is not just going to class and earning good grades, the social component is also immensely important, and joining a club is a great way to fulfill that need. Though everything is virtual, being a part of a club is still a rewarding experience.
This semester, I joined the Long Beach State chapter of the National Association of Black Student Journalists. I’ve been trying to join this club since I transferred to CSULB in fall 2019. At my community college, I wasn’t involved in many extracurricular activities. Aside from working on the newspaper staff, I didn’t do much. I wanted to get more involved in the college social scene when I transferred, and joining a club was the perfect way to do that.
I’m an introvert and am quiet until I become comfortable with my environment and the people around me. However, with my last two years of college quickly concluding, I decided to do something that would take me out of my comfort zone and force me to interact with other people besides my immediate circle.
Once I heard about NABJ, I was immediately drawn to it. As a young, Black woman journalist, I don’t know many journalists that look like me. Simply, I thought it would be beneficial to join a club that represented me with individuals that have an interest in journalism.
I assumed it would be easy to find out more information about NABJ. The journalism department isn’t huge and it seems like everyone knows everyone. I thought to myself, “It can’t be that hard to find a journalism club within the department, right?” I was dead wrong. I looked for them during Week of Welcome twice with no prevail, asked fellow classmates if they knew any information about club meetings and struck out. I even asked the club advisor about meetings and didn’t hear about any new developments for a whole school year.
I was starting to give up on my hopes of joining this club after failing at it. With the tumultuous spring semester finally wrapping up last May, I wanted to take a break before the fall semester started. I wasn’t thinking about NABJ anymore.
One summer evening, I was coming home from work and I stopped to get some food. I noticed an email from my former professor, Todd Henneman, who is also the faculty advisor for NABJ. At the time, I thought it was weird since I didn’t have any classes with him for the fall, but nonetheless I opened it.
In the email, he informed me that the club will begin having virtual meetings this semester. I was ecstatic. My thoughts of joining NABJ were on the forefront of my mind yet again. I immediately responded to him and said I was interested in joining.
I was so excited about this opportunity that I even applied to be the club’s social media officer. I never been in a club let alone been a club officer. Though I freaked out internally, I told myself this should be fun.
Meetings usually consist of officers planning out the next club event. This month we invited a professional journalist to speak with us about the trials and tribulations of being a Black journalist and what it’s like to cover the Black Lives Matter movement.
During these past weeks, I learned about exclusive internship opportunities, and virtually met Jerome Campbell, a professional journalist, who has worked for the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe. Aside from making professional connections, I have also made some new friends, some who are in my classes as well.
It’s hard trying to connect with classmates, since the majority of students are taking online classes this semester. During most classes, web cameras are off, so it’s hard to know what classmates even look like. Even though the majority of students were assigned to submit an introduction discussion thread on BeachBoard, that isn’t a great substitute for meeting new classmates in person. Since some club members are in my classes, it’s nice to virtually see a familiar face throughout the week and if I ever need help with classwork, I know I can reach out to them.
I can understand that joining a club, with everything going on, may seem unfruitful, but it’s quite the opposite. We are all at home, so our usual social gatherings are limited. We can’t physically see our friends, and we may be seeing our family more than we would like.
Connecting with friends through social media or text messages is okay for a while but doesn’t always cut it. I’m used to seeing people in person and connecting with them that way. When I was on campus, I made it a habit to walk with my friends to class or grab some lunch when we had a break. I’m terrible at responding, even though I’m on my phone more often than I care to admit. It’s been difficult to substitute that in-person interaction for a text message. With a club, you can actually speak to someone face to face in a way.
We shouldn’t let the pandemic hinder us from enjoying our college years. This is the moment to take advantage of the opportunities we still have to connect with peers. Joining a club is the best way to do that.
I wanted to be more social before I graduate from college and being a part of NABJ helps me do that. This may have not been the senior year I envisioned myself having but I’m going to make the most of it, so if my interaction among peers is only possible through Zoom right now, so be it. College is four years; I don’t want to look back and think “What if?” I want to look back and say that’s what I did.