WHENEVER my friends ask me “Emil, what is it like to be a student-journalist?” I always answer with an array of safe, ready-made lies so far off from the actual truth that it totally misses the mark. (Of course, this never happens as my friends really don’t give a hoot about this subject, but I wouldn’t want accuracy to ruin that lead.)

Perhaps the reason why I opt to go for the safe answer is because it is too complicated to talk about the multitude of emotions one feels upon becoming a student-journalist. On the one hand, it is an ennobling feeling giving back to the Thomasian community by chronicling UST’s history. On the other hand, there is the constant stress and pressure of the job to consider, which makes being in the school paper a daunting commitment not to be taken lightly.

One such stress as a student-writer would be the fact that you have to be deadline-oriented in order for the news to preserve its’ timeliness. This year, the Varsitarian staff, being the masochists that they are, decided to undergo a bimonthly or “15-day cycle,” which, in laymen’s term, means that the newspaper comes out twice a month. For the Thomasians, this is a good thing as they will be getting twice their dose of the university news, but for the staffers, this is nothing short of a slow gory death reminiscent of “Kill Bill” fame.

But amidst the insanity of the bimonthly set-up, one must not forget that there still is the academics to consider. While on the surface it may look like your friendly neighborhood student-journalists live in the publication’s office (albeit making a small nest using newspaper bits and befriending the office-critters for company), we actually take our academics very seriously. Of course, to the untrained eye, this doesn’t normally show because we are often late or even absent in class, making it look as if we were contestants in an episode of “Who Wants to Get F.A.’d?”

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It is only logical to put academics on top, considering that you can’t be a student-writer without being a student. And with academics and the extra-curricular activities taking most of our time, it is a given that some aspect of our life must therefore take a backseat – less time for yourself, your friends, your family or even your jowa.

All this is from the writer’s perspective, of course. The student-editor’s point-of-view, on the other hand, is a different story altogether. While the legwork is considerably less, the mental strain of the job more than makes up for it. There are the story proposals to think up of, the stubborn writers to discipline, the venom-filled letters from the administrators and faculty alike complaining about an article, the recurring “no-comment” replies from officials and sources (as if they were involved in a dark occult secret happening within UST that will be the plot for the next Dan Brown novel) not to mention the presswork days wherein you have to stay overnight in the office just to finish the newspaper layout, only coming home once in a while to find out that your once baby brother is actually now in grade four.

So why bother being a student-journalist at the Varsitarian, if it seems to be one problem after the other?

The answer would be that it is well worth it. Despite everything you have to hurdle along the way I delight in the fact that, even after three years of (over)staying in this organization, I still continue to learn something new everyday. And not just writing-related lessons, mind you, but also things not directly related to my course. Thanks to the extra-editorial events like Ustetika or Pautakan, I learned how to host, make videos, socialize, and even do some heavy lifting (although I still strongly believe they should have placed a disclaimer in the Varsitarian application form warning you that apart from writing, you might also have to lift some tables and chairs along the way).

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CBA negotiations with faculty on hold

And more than a goldmine of experience, there is also the people you meet to consider. A lot of times I have thought about quitting but it’s the bond I have established with my co-workers that keeps me rooted to this place. Thank god for those crazy bunch for keeping me sane throughout a stressful year.

At the end of a long and eventful road, I leave this organization with mixed feelings, both bitter and sweet. I am thankful to be free from the shackles of this very demanding job, but at the same time, I relish in the memories of success and hardships the staffers have endured just for the sake of documenting UST’s history. Being a student-journalist is definitely hard work, but the payoff is invaluable– writing experience, long-lasting friends and confidence in one’s potential. Not a bad deal, I think, even if it means pulling a few muscles from all the heavy lifting along the way.

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To the next batch of student-journalists, may you continue to chronicle UST’s glorious history as it enters its 400th year mark. And may the spirit of accuracy and objectivity guide your hand as you begin to ink each and every article over the course of your college writing career.

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