Of Surprises and a Cup O’ Copy

Coming to UC Irvine, I thought I knew exactly what I did and did not want. I wanted to be at UCLA. I didn’t want to be in Irvine. I wanted to have fun and party and, maybe on occasion, study. I wanted to be a fiction writer, not a journalist.

In all honesty, UCI was my second choice. Most of my family — all except one — who had gone to college in the United States had gone to Irvine. We were a family of ’Eaters, and the last thing I wanted to do was join that tradition. What kind of mascot was the anteater? What kind of cheer was “Zot zot zot”? What school didn’t have a football team? (Not that I was into football at the time or anything like that … I just thought that a football team to cheer for, games to attend, rivalries with other schools would boost my nonexistent school spirit.)

I didn’t even know what the campus looked like until I arrived for the one-day SPOP. My mother forced me to go on the campus tour — I had no desire to trudge around Ring Road in 90-plus degree weather — and it was the first time I saw UCI. I had to admit that the campus was beautiful, but I was still apprehensive, still rolling my eyes at the tour guide’s enthusiastic zot-zot-zot-ing and still wishing I had gotten into another school.

Fall quarter started. I joined The Edge, a Christian fellowship — something I had never envisioned myself doing — and made new friends, with whom I stayed up all night to talk about anything and everything, to study for Hum Core or whatever else it was we did that year. This group of girls quickly became some of the closest friends I had. Throughout my years in The Edge, I have had the privilege of meeting some of the kindest, most genuine people I know and, for that, I am so grateful.

It wasn’t until sophomore year rolled around and I enrolled in a literary journalism class that I began to warm up to my major. Having argued with my parents about entering UCI as an English major, I chose literary journalism on a whim — after all, being a journalist was a potential job, right? I had every intention of switching majors as soon as possible, but I figured I’d at least give literary journalism a chance. It’s a good thing I did.

In the beginning, I consistently felt out of my element, asked myself “what the hell am I even doing?” and questioned if I had what it took to be a journalist. I struggled to tell a story in such a way as to do my subjects justice, and I had panic attacks about difficult or flaky sources. I’ve said things I wish I hadn’t and not said things I wish I had. Never had I been so challenged to think differently, push harder, be better. In particular, I have to thank Barry Siegel, Amy Wilentz and Erika Hayasaki for always calling me out when I wasn’t doing my best while encouraging me to do so. It hasn’t been easy, but I appreciate that every story requires something else of myself. I love that I face a different challenge every time I start something new, every time I interview another person. If someone had told my freshman-year self that I would be pursuing a career in journalism after graduation, I would have laughed. Now, there isn’t anything else in the world I can see myself doing.

Which brings me to the New University. As one-third of the New U’s “Cup o’ Copy,” I copy-edited a variety of articles, some I enjoyed a lot and some … not so much. I stumbled my way through learning the Associated Press style (no Oxford commas, all those capitalization rules, etc.). Editing all these articles has taught me so much about the people and the world around me, about patience and perseverance, about sports I never thought I’d care enough to follow.

Best of all, I got to spend almost every Sunday of this school year with a group of loud, strange, hilarious people who have made me laugh until I cried. Production day could have been something to dread — a long day cooped in a rickety building, staring at a laptop screen while waiting for articles to edit — but it never was. Not even on “one of those days,” when articles came in slowly or when everyone was out of sorts.

I have fond memories with this year’s staff — the “batroll’d” video on YouTube will forever remind me of the time when it wasn’t production day if we didn’t hear that familiar twinkling tune coming from one laptop or another, for one. Or the musical selections of the newsroom, from Disney songs to ’90s pop to screamo covers of any song. Or the vast variety of shiny things on the Internet that we discovered together, circulating among ourselves the (literally) hundreds of cute animal videos on YouTube or the memes on Tumblr. Even with all that “non-work” and “serious journalism” going on, we still managed to get a paper out every week — and we had fun doing it, too.

I thought I knew what I wanted but, as it turns out, I had no idea what a crazy, wonderful time I would have here at UCI and how much my college experience would exceed my expectations.

So thank you. To every professor who has ever had an encouraging word for me, to every person who has laughed or cried with me, to every friend I have made during these four years, thank you. It’s been brilliant.

Mallory Yu is a fourth-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at mayu@uci.edu.