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Wandering into the major I now call home

Notes of Nostalgia: Some memories are so poignant that you’re able to recall specific details of the situation long after the event has passed. This series highlights the truly memorable moments of our writers' lives, those that have stuck with them for days, months and years and now take shape as stories on the page.

Around three years ago, I committed to Miami University as an education major. 

I had attended Make it Miami, surrounded by lines of chattering high school students — red lanyards with name-tags hung about their necks, accompanied by anxious parents asking countless questions. 

It didn’t occur to me at the time that I would want to change my major before I had even gone to my first class. My first jobs — babysitter, swim instructor and camp counselor — all involved kids, and I liked the school environment. It seemed a perfect fit. 

Yet, after some deliberation and remembering how much I’d enjoyed my AP class in high school, I decided to switch to psychology. Everyone I spoke with at Miami reassured me that changing my major was completely fine; some kids switched five or six times. (I also loved to write, but figured I would add an English minor later).

A few weeks before my first-year, I emailed an honors director. I had been selected as an Education, Health and Society Scholar but was interested in finding a scholars cohort that better suited my new major. By chance, I asked if being a Writing Scholar was a possibility, and a few emails and a phone call later, I was invited into the program.

All Writing Scholars (housed in the department of Media, Journalism and Film) are required to take JRN 120, a specialized introductory journalism course. I remember walking into that class terrified to speak. I loved to write more than anything, but was completely overwhelmed. I hadn’t taken a journalism class since my freshman year of high school and found myself surrounded by classmates who were probably all studying journalism to varying degrees. 

But from the first day, I knew this class was going to be different than anything I’d experienced. 

James Tobin, the professor of the course, made journalism feel abstract, yet tangible at the same time. He focused on narrative structure and style, sorting the class into small groups with an assigned undergraduate assistant (UA). At the time, Tobin didn’t use Canvas much. Instead, we got a booklet of stories and articles — our reading assignments.

I absolutely loved that class. 

My confidence and interest in writing grew as I met kids who shared the same interest in telling stories as I did. Our poignant class discussions prompted me to think more critically about what I read, and it finally occurred to me that writing could be more than something I did for fun. 

I declared a second major in journalism part-way through my first year and eventually added a minor in creative writing. And as it turned out, psychology and journalism make an excellent combination. 

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If I think back to JRN 120, I remember a lot of shy kids whose names I was just starting to learn.A UA named Megan  suggested I give writing for The Miami Student newspaper and magazine a try. And because of her prompting, I found this sense of community I did not know I was looking for. A group of strangers in the newsroom became dear friends in Oxford and beyond. 

Last semester, a journalism professor nominated me to be a College of Arts and Science Ambassador and I accepted, excited to bring things full circle and be the one at Make it Miami events talking to the shy high school students and the inquisitive parents.

And when a mom whips out a notebook and a pen, trying to jot down my insight on dorm life and academic programs, to the embarrassment of her kid, I just smile because my mom did the same thing. 

Yet it’s asking those questions — important or seemingly-trivial — that guide you where you want to go. 

Thinking back, if I hadn’t sent that email to that honors director in August 0f 2017, I don’t know where I’d be. For one thing, I wouldn’t be an editor, and writing — which I’ve now decided will be my career — might have remained an afterthought. 

dattilec@miamioh.edu 

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