Shelter from the Storm

We have a deal, St. John’s and I.

Twice a week I make my way into Manhattan on crammed busses and trains and show up for my internship, ready to perform any order I’m given. When I get home, I write a few sentences down about my day in a journal.

In return I’m awarded six academic credits, which are two less classes I have to take this semester. Oh, and I also receive an hour for lunch.

It’s a fine deal, one that I consider well worth the price of riding an uncomfortably packed Q46 twice a week. It’s worth it because at the end of the day, I receive more hands-on experience that I can put towards my career than I would have received all week in class. Nothing against learning from books, but getting out into the working world can sometimes be a much more useful lesson.

The same is true for the time I dedicate every week to working on the Torch. I’m asked routinely how I balance my classes with the newspaper, and my response is always the same: I do my best, and most of the time it balances out just fine.

But some weeks, my commitments don’t balance out as perfectly as the schedule on my wall reads. Last week is a great example of this, as developments in the Cecilia Chang scandal had members of the Torch staff running around like bionic reporters.

Tuesdays are normally when I attend three classes and then focus on producing the Torch so it can print early Wednesday morning. Last Tuesday did not remotely resemble this formula. We learned Tuesday morning that Cecilia Chang, the ex-dean who was arrested for allegedly embezzling over $1 million from the University, had posted bail and was returning to her home in Jamaica Estates that day.

The Torch was the first to learn about this, as our own Sara Marron had made a random call to the Queens’ DA looking for developments such as this one. A  small group of us quickly found Chang’s address and hustled out of the office with a camera and notepads. We poked around outside her house, ringing her doorbell several times and asking neighbors if they’d seen anyone enter the home. We left with a photo for the front page and a look at where some of the wealthiest people in Queens live.

Sara continued work on a story that would become the next day’s front page of the Torch, and also catch the attention of a New York Times reporter who came to campus Thursday morning to work with her. The rest of us continued our work, buzzing with the understanding that we were working on breaking news. Eventually, we found the phone number for the Chang household we had visited earlier in the day. A few moments later, we had Cecilia Chang herself on the phone.

Knowing for sure that she was now at her home, Sara and a photographer rushed back to the house, this time under a sun that was almost completely set. They had similar results to the first trip, but this time saw Chang herself and her son outside. It didn’t take long for the two of them to race inside and slam the door.

It was a day that presented unexpected work and commotion, and I missed all three of my classes for it. But we all gained a new experience in the world of journalism that could prove more valuable than anything covered in class that day, and Sara’s article came out much better for it. (To all my professors: Please don’t fail me).

Great emphasis is always placed on getting a quality education, and rightly so because that is part of what will lead to a great career.

But a college education is not solely what takes place in a classroom—it is the lessons we’re taught both in and outside of class, the relationships we develop with professors, students and contacts, and the experiences we have along the way. As most employers will tell you, the more experience, the better.

The events of last Tuesday and the time I spend at my internship every week are examples of indispensable experiences. College is not only about training the mind to think at a higher level, it’s about preparing for what you want to do after you grasp that diploma.

I challenge anyone to refute that.

On Thursday when I’m shoulder to shoulder making my way downtown, it’ll be worth it for what the day is going to teach me. For that, St. John’s, I couldn’t thank you more.