Marginalia, Graduate Blog

A Reflection on My First Semester and Everything Leading Up to It

Danielle Dwyer

New Ambassador Danielle (right) and her predecessor Katie (left)

New Ambassador Danielle (right) and her predecessor Katie (left)

Wow, I can’t believe my first semester is over and I am working on my first blog post as the new journalism ambassador. It seems like just yesterday I was reaching out to the ambassador about the Journalism MA program to discuss the application process and to help me calm the butterflies I was feeling about being accepted into this program.Although most of my classmates came to Columbia straight after undergrad, I had a two-year hiatus before joining the Columbia family to pursue my master’s degree in journalism.


After completing a double degree in business communication and media communication at Thiel College in Pennsylvania, I was eager and ready to jump into the world of broadcast with a focus in sports reporting. To me, I had made the most of my undergrad experience and exhausted every possible resource to make my dream career a reality. During the job application process I obtained a digital media advertising job at a local branch of a global ad agency. Despite my excitement and enthusiasm for an opportunity at a job, I knew shortly after my first day that this career was not a place I saw myself long-term. However, I wanted to at least give myself a year’s worth of experience before I moved on to either school or another job.

As I continued to apply for television and sports reporting jobs, I received feedback stating I needed more experience or more schooling to break into the broadcast industry. Therefore, following my first-year mark at the agency, I looked at master’s programs that I had previously researched and decided to look further into Columbia’s program.

Journalism Students Tweet JFK Coverage

Journalism Students Tweet JFK Coverage

Columbia appealed to me in a variety of ways. Although I grew up as a small town country girl, I was a city girl at heart and knew that was not only where I wanted to move to, but also that was where I needed to go in order to turn this dream into a reality. I wanted a program that was highly accredited and that had a lot of connections and internship opportunities, which Columbia definitely has. Also, I would be starting my master’s degree after being out of school for two years. Being that this degree would lead to a career change, I didn’t want to put myself behind more than I already felt I was. Therefore, having a program that was accelerated was a definite appeal because not only would I finish my degree in less than two years, but I would also be able to enter the job market earlier than most students who graduate in May.

After completing a call with admissions about the program I decided to apply. And on Valentine’s Day I received the best valentine of all – my acceptance letter into the program.

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While my eyes were filled with tears of joy, my mind was racing. I would be leaving my family, my job, my friends and the life I’ve known to pursue a career I had dreamed about. I was filled with anxiety about whether or not this was really the right decision for me, therefore, I attended admitted students day at Columbia to get a first-hand view of what the program would be like, see a class in session and talk with current students about my worries. Although I was scared, excited and unsure about my decision, I knew I couldn’t go on wondering the rest of my life if I could have turned my dream career into a reality.

Although that unsure feeling was still present on the first day of school – and sporadically throughout my first semester – I know deep down this was definitely the right decision. Everything that had appealed to me about Columbia I have had a chance to experience. I have made connections and taken advantage of every opportunity I can to build my portfolio and gain experience. And I am happy again and know that when I graduate this time I will enjoy my job because I love journalism.

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For me journalism is a rewarding career every day. There is so much variety in what you can write on. You meet really great people and everybody is willing to help you network and connect with others who can help you reach your goals. There are so many stories that I reported on this semester that completely surpassed my initial thoughts on what they actually would entail. I have been blessed with amazing resources not only within the Columbia family, but also at various media channels that have led to freelance opportunities and published works.

As I look back on my first semester, all that self-doubt is virtually gone because everything that I have done, every person I have met and all the feedback I have received has reassured me that this is a career I love and it’s worth taking the risk to get out of your comfort zone and pursue something new that you want and that will make you happy.

A Reflection on My First Semester and Everything Leading Up to It

Wow, I can’t believe my first semester is over and I am working on my first blog post as the new journalism ambassador. It seems like just yesterday I was …

Journalism MA Danielle Dwyer,
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605