Gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss, graduate

Jean Norman and Alexandrea Bonilla at the pier in Annapolis, Maryland in August of 2022.

College can be a lonely place. You have all this freedom, but you’re not really sure what to do with it. You’re trying to become your own person and grow as an adult, while still trying to figure out how to make friends.

Making friends is something I’ve always struggled with, being an overly-independent child and an introvert. I never went out of my way to talk to someone or introduce myself, and I would rather die than be the center of attention.

Previous graduates and all of my professors told me that college is the most enjoyable when you choose to be involved. I chose — to ignore that advice. I told myself I was busy and had other things to worry about. It’s not a requirement to make friends, and I could finish my degree without being involved on campus. That is, until I couldn’t.

My advisor, Jean Norman, told me that to graduate with a multimedia journalism emphasis, I needed to write for The Signpost. I put off social interaction on campus for as long as possible, and then I had to do what I convinced myself I would never do: I had to actively get involved with a club/organization.

I was terrified, and quite frankly a little annoyed, that I had to join this club that I didn’t know much about and spend my spare time with these people I’ve never met.

But damn, I was so wrong about being involved on campus.

I found myself really enjoying the meetings and making friends with the editors. I was excited to spend more time at school and be involved on campus.

Every day, I fell more in love with journalism, and college became less of a chore and more of an opportunity. Because of The Signpost, I’ve gotten opportunities I never would have thought possible.

I’ve been to media conferences in Long Beach; Washington, D.C.; Las Vegas and San Francisco. I’ve talked to journalists from all over the country and learned from award-winning writers. Every time I step into our little newsroom, I’m inspired to be the best journalist I can be.

Not only that, but I’ve made friends that have impacted my life forever. I found a community that supports me like no other and understands my frustrations and fears.

Going out of my comfort zone and finding community on campus was the best decision I have ever made. Whatever you are passionate about, find others who are passionate about the same thing. There really is no better place than a college campus.

I’m so incredibly grateful for everyone I’ve met through The Signpost and the experiences we’ve shared. I’m also so incredibly grateful for Jean, she pushed me out of my comfort zone and believed in me from day one. Thank you, Jean, for everything you’ve done for me and other future journalists.