I purposely neglected to write this column because I honestly hate goodbyes. I’m not going to lie: I was really awkward during my freshman year and didn’t really enjoy dorm life or the food at Pippin that caused indigestion (I’d often see flies in my soup and birds eating someone’s scrambled eggs — no joke).

It was a tough year for me because my grandfather had just passed away, my grades were suffering and it was difficult for me to adjust to college life. Picking up a fresh copy of the New University was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. It distracted me (in a good way) from the multitude of things plaguing my mind.

I remember flipping through the pages of the newspaper and telling myself I would join and be a part of the staff. There must have been something about the inky smell of newspaper print. Within the next couple of weeks, I attended the first New University orientation of the year. I was filled with anxiety and unsure of what to expect. Looking back, I learned so much about myself through the New University. I learned to let go of my insecurities and forged many friendships along the way.

I still remember the first article I wrote for the New U: “Procrastination Nation: Just Read This Column Tomorrow.” Very corny and full of clichés, I admit. But it was there where my love for journalism blossomed. From then on, I churned out several articles and put myself out there.

It wasn’t until sophomore year when I learned about the literary journalism program at UCI. There’s too much to possibly say about the program. But I just want to thank Director Barry Siegel, Patricia Pierson, all the amazing literary journalism professors, including Erika Hayasaki who has constantly supported and encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and pursue a career in journalism. I can’t even explain how much you’ve truly inspired me with your words of wisdom and insight about journalism.

From intern, staff writer, copy editor and finally, Features Editor — I can truly say that the experience at the New University has been memorable. I practically lived in the newsroom for two years every Sunday. I am so incredibly honored to have worked with such a dedicated team at the New University, who busted their butts to maintain a quality newspaper. A big shout out to our current managing editor, Traci Lee and editor-in-chief, David “Snowflake” Gao.

I’m going to miss the newsroom the most when I leave UCI. For me, that dirty couch filled with so many germs will always have a place in my heart. I’ll also miss the memorabilia posted on the walls (my portrait of the entire New U staff including my amateur drawing of Elmo and a snowman). And of course, I will miss the times when I pissed people off for my choice in music. (The Beebz, Chris Brown, etc., etc.)

As an Indian-American, I’ve often been stereotyped. People often give me weird looks when I tell them I’m a literary journalism major. “Oh, you don’t want to be a doctor?” Sometimes, I’ll just get weird stares from people who wonder why the hell I’m pursuing a career that doesn’t really have any high prospects. Yeah, money is good. But to me, writing changes lives.

My parents have always supported me from day one when I picked up my first newspaper back in middle school. They never forced me to become a doctor, lawyer or teacher. As long as I wasn’t on the streets and remained happy — it was all good. Unlike most parents, they don’t mind if I won’t make bank. Their dedication and positive approach to life has inspired me to embark on this journey. They’ve continually supported me through my ups and downs and constantly encouraged me to do what I love: write.

For me, journalism has opened so many doors for me (not to mention the VIP service). I’ve had the opportunity to cover some very difficult and heartwarming stories. I’ve done everything from interviewing tattoo artists, attempting to go to the men’s jail in Santa Ana to interview a man who murdered an entire family, to immersing myself in a subculture, visiting a cadaver facility and interviewing Holocaust survivors and In-N-Out enthusiasts. I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else for the rest of my life but this.

It is truly because of the entire literary journalism program and the amazing people I have met through the New University that have allowed me to do what I do.

I’m not going to end this column with a cliché. So, on a totally unrelated note, here’s my favorite quote from the Beebz: “There is gonna be times in your life when people say you can’t live your dreams. Well this is what I tell them: NEVER SAY NEVER.”

Monica Luhar is a fourth-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at