As I write this column, I’m struck by how fast my time at UCLA has gone. When you’re knee-deep in midterms and questioning yourself on why you just didn’t take an easier route and become a superhero like you wanted to, it seems like the quarter will never end. But, it has. And now with the ending near, I’d like to think that I’ve learned a thing or two.
So in the tradition of reflecting on my experience here at UCLA, I thought about what I would say to myself as a first-year.
Write for the Daily Bruin. Seriously. Working on news stories not only improves your writing but challenges you. All that beautiful, deeply opinionated language that you inherently have and have honed with your English major is utterly useless. Don’t waste your time. The people want to know when Covel is opening up, not take a trip down Bruinwalk with an introductory prologue. Get to the good stuff – quick. The news beat is super fast-paced and interesting, and you get to meet some of the coolest people on campus. Plus, you get a very sweet shirt. By the way – blue is definitely your color.
A- grades are not failing. I know, it’s tough. You thought you were going to continue that perfect straight-A streak and when you get your first A- grade, you have a meltdown. Guess what – you’re at UCLA now. Classes are hard. Trust me when I say, you will make it out of this alive. So stop having breakdowns every time you go home for the holidays. It’s not cute and your parents don’t want you spoiling Christmas.
Stay informed. Just watching “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” on CNN every weekday is good. Setting Google alerts for Westwood news; reading the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and USA Today; watching news on KABC-TV, NBC, CBS and Fox local affiliate channels; and subscribing to the UCLA Newsroom are very good. Being a part of the news beat means you’re going to be constantly absorbing news. A news cycle is fast and it’s all right that your iPhone is littered with media apps and alerts. You’ll feel overwhelmed at first, but don’t worry if you miss a story. There’s always a new cycle the next day.
Associated Press style if your best frenemy. You and the AP Stylebook will have a very intricate and challenging relationship. Some days, you’ll be the best of friends. Some days, you’d be OK with being on “Dateline NBC” because you’ve strangled the AP Stylebook to death. But it’s the only way you can write an article in journalism, so you better get comfortable with using it because it’s not going away. AP Stylebook – can’t live with it, can’t live without it.
Go to Hollywood. Explore all that Los Angeles has to offer. There are tons of places you can visit that you can’t afford, lots of ways to get lost and stuck in traffic and so many different events that you can’t get into – you’ll never be bored. And then visit the J. Paul Getty Museum. Drive along the coast of Malibu. Learn about all the famous celebrities that frequented Sunset Boulevard. Explore the Griffith Observatory and sit and dream while listening to music at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. LA has everything for every mood. Let it spoil you.
Join organizations. Aletta, it’s great that you want to participate on campus and make a difference. Clubs are exciting and inspiring, like pretty shiny objects that you want to collect. But do not, I repeat, do not join all six organizations at once. Because there’s this thing called weekly meetings that you have to attend – weekly. Coupled with your responsibilities as a member/writer/webmaster/officer, you will be exhausted by the time you get everything done. Which leads into the next point …
Four hours of sleep is not sleep. That’s a nap.
Be proud. You will be intimidated by the eight-clap at first. But once you get it, you’ll understand that UCLA is something to be proud of. Ambush your parents with UCLA mom and dad shirts and stock up on onesies for the kids you haven’t even had yet. Get lost in the spirit, wear your blue and gold with pride and buy Josie and Joe Bruin plushies for all your friends. Especially the ones that go to that other school.
Make sure to have fun. Make connections, network, enjoy your friendships. Because when it’s all said and done, and you’re sitting in Pauley Pavilion, smile-crying, you will miss every single moment of being an UCLA undergraduate. Oh, and thank your mommy and daddy. You wouldn’t be who you are without them.
Cooke was a News reporter for the city and crime beat 2018-2019.