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How I Found My People as a Commuter Student

A company newspaper group photo with 22 students by the metal B outside Boise State

For my entire college career, I lived over 30 minutes from campus. I’ve also talked in other blogs about the fact that I was a non-traditional student. I wasn’t the normal college age, I didn’t live on campus, and I felt like I was intruding on what and who Boise State was for.

But I still had hopes and dreams for my career. I longed to find people with similar interests who I could connect with as friends, but also people who had similar professional goals to mine that I could learn from. Yeah, I did meet some people just from classes, but I knew there was a deeper well of young professionals out there who wanted to work the same types of jobs as me. How were they doing it? What was their plan? What steps did they take?

To be honest, I isolated myself a lot from campus and the Boise State community my first year. I was kind of ashamed that I didn’t have the traditional college experience. That first year I picked my degree, put my head down, and did the work.

The lightbulb moment

But something happened. When I got into my second year of study, I was taking more specific writing classes for my degree. I had a lot of questions and I learned that a lot of my peers were already taking steps to beef up their resumes. They were getting internships, jobs, volunteering, and taking really cool classes I had never heard of. All of which was adding value to their school experience and setting them up for success after graduation.

I wanted to succeed. I mean, the whole reason I went back to school in my late twenties was because I found myself unhappy in my career. I wanted more control over working a job that gave me a sense of purpose and accomplishment. I didn’t want to just be behind the desk for the paycheck. But, as so many will tell you, making a career in the arts isn’t easy. And my degree was creative writing.

So, I started doing some research. I looked at my resume and realized that I needed more than just my degree to get ahead. What clubs, jobs, or internships could I find that could get me closer to where I wanted to be? That’s when I found The Arbiter on Handshake.

The “how?”

Just before my sophomore year, I saw that the Boise State newspaper was hiring. I thought, “Why not?” and decided to apply. I was interviewed for an editor position and their social media coordinator position. They offered me the social media job and I really had to think about it.

I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t an easy decision. Driving 30-45 minutes to campus, then back home to study, then back to campus for class? It seemed like a massive hassle and maybe a waste of my time. Not to mention, I didn’t want to work in social media. I wanted to be a writer. But I took it. And it was the best decision I ever made in college.

It totally changed the trajectory of my career. And I’ll tell you why.

The “why?”

First, I made friends. I learned that even though I was studying creative writing, there’s a lot of overlap between my degree and other degrees, like communication, journalism, English, rhetoric, media studies, film majors and more. I started learning the goals and dreams of my peers and was inspired by them. Many of them worked two or three jobs plus internships and some other extracurriculars. I was floored at how talented they were and loved seeing them succeed. They gave me invaluable feedback on how to get better at my craft. It gave me the determination to put in the extra work, push myself, and to not be afraid to reach for things that used to scare me. I learned that the fear of failure and judgment was holding me back from success.

Secondly, I learned awesome skills. And I got the writing experience I wanted. I learned a whole new valuable skill set learning how social media works, tracking analytics, sending newsletters, etc. On top of that, I volunteered myself for various writing projects, like a weekly horoscope and writing a newsletter. I quickly learned that I’d come out the other side of this job with some solid writing projects under my belt while learning an entirely new skill set to add to my resume too.

Lastly, I finally felt like I belonged to the Boise State community. I felt like a Bronco and I was proud. I was contributing something to students. I felt like I was contributing something positive to our little community. I hand-delivered papers. I got acquainted with all the corners of campus. I introduced myself to people. I was proud to say I worked at the paper. I finally understood what was so special and unique about Boise State. And I came to feel like Boise State was my home just as much as it was anyone else’s.

And through all of this, I learned that a 30 minute commute sacrifice was worth it to me.

The “what next?”

In my junior year, my experience with the paper got me an interview as a content writer for Student Life. That job got me a Work U position as senior writer for Boise State Esports. That internship landed me an internship in my senior year as brand writer for Hasbro. ALL of that taught me that I’m super invested in mixing the world of communication writing with creative writing. And that led to me getting an offer for a full-time job back here at Boise State after I graduated. And I’m learning so much from this experience every day. I’m excited to see where this will lead me next.

Now, a year after graduation, I’m watching my friends from the paper go on to follow their dreams. They’re doing it! And I’m so proud of them. I’ve met new friends through those friends and I’ve connected people to the connections I made while in college. I get to work alongside creatives I respect and I feel valuable to the team I work with. I keep doing it. I keep putting myself out there and asking, “Why not?” when new opportunities come up and, really, those opportunities are only possible because of the people I meet along the way.

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  • Trisha Miller