Being the first person in my family to attend college in the United States, I experienced a lot of uncertainty before I stepped foot on campus at the University of North Florida.
I didn’t know quite what to expect. Going into an entirely new environment, I wasn’t sure if I’d have the opportunities to be involved in the projects that I was passionate about right off the bat.
My early concerns didn’t last long. UNF has been the perfect place for me to develop as a communication professional, and the University has given me a tremendous amount of practical experience that will greatly help when I enter the job market. From day one, I’ve felt like UNF is a training ground for an incredible professional future.
My parents moved us to the United States from New Delhi, India for greater access to higher education and job opportunities. I attended Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville for high school. That’s where I developed a love for the written word. I dabbled in poetry, playwriting and journalism and even worked for the school paper, writing a food column called “The Skillet.” When I came to UNF, I had the opportunity to work with the on-campus television station, Osprey TV, and the campus newspaper, The Spinnaker, to expand “The Skillet” into a multimedia cooking series produced with the help of fellow Osprey Andy Leverett. This experience working with different fields of media beyond just writing has given me a broader understanding of the communication industry as a whole. Also, as a foodie at heart, having the ability to combine my culinary interests with my career aspirations in media was a dream come true.
Ever since developing “The Skillet” into a six-episode series that airs on campus TV, I have looked for more on-camera opportunities. I anchored “Inside Jacksonville,” a local news program airing on CW17 that is produced by the UNF communication department. I even covered the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa for the Washington Post and the Florida Times-Union along with a group of UNF communication students. Beyond the news world, I starred in and produced a five-minute film, “Buzzkill,” for a campus movie festival that led to our crew being flown out to Hollywood for a screening. How many students can say their college experience took them to Hollywood?
That’s not to say that I haven’t had any hurdles in my path. I’m in the country on a student visa, and my family and I are striving for citizenship every day. Also, I’ve had serious arthritis since I was three years old, which makes life difficult in the high-speed, high-stress world of live TV reporting. But I haven’t allowed that to hold me back. When I was in Tampa covering the RNC, I was right there, running with the top dogs and broadcasting right next to other reporters from across the country.
I’ve drawn strength from the continued support I’ve received from my friends, fellow students and professors. There’s never been a time where my instructors have told me to forget about a project because it was too ambitious or time-consuming. They’ve always been there for me — as a student and as a person. You get the feeling that they care, and you’re not lost in the shuffle like you would be at a larger school. Here at UNF, the professors are really invested in our futures. And the fact that it’s not a huge university allows for access to some truly incredibly opportunities that other students from bigger schools might not even know about.
When I was first applying to college, there were people who told me going to UNF would be playing it safe. They suggested I apply to larger schools across the country. I’m glad I didn’t listen. Now, I’m applying for internships at places like CNN that can open the door for me at news organizations across the globe. And the thing I think that will set me apart is all the practical and hands-on work experiences I’ve received while at UNF.