The University of Rhode Island was my absolute last choice school.  Unfortunately, it was the cheapest choice too, so from the moment I arrived on campus, I hated it.

I would complain that it was too close to home while ironically going home every weekend. And I would complain that it was “too small” despite never making an effort to join any clubs or even attend most of my classes. For the time I did spend on campus I was usually hiding out in my dorm room, and for the time I was away, I would cry every time it came for my mom to drive me back. My freshman year, in a nutshell, was miserable, and the only real person to blame for that is myself.

My sophomore year I resolve to get more involved, and my solution to this was joining The Good 5 Cent Cigar.  It’s a decision that drastically changed the trajectory of my life and it has enriched me in so many ways.

At the first meeting I ever attended, I timidly walked into a room where I knew no one and sat down quietly to listen to editors pitch stories. I remember going up to the Editor-In-Chief afterwards to ask for a story because I was to embarrassed and afraid of public speaking to claim one in front of everyone.  I remember being amazed when they trusted me to write a soft feature, and being even more amazed when they actually published the article. It was an exhilarating feeling to see my name is print for the first time, and despite how awkward I originally felt reaching out and talking to people I didn’t know, I kept going back for more.

My involvement with the Cigar helped me to become more informed about what was happening around campus, and it pushed me to become more connected with the people on it. I went looking for constructive criticism and ways to improve my writing. It inspired me to change my major to journalism after having already invest two and a half years in another program and even studying abroad.

As a journalism major I not only attended my classes, but was actively engaged and passionate about the work we were doing. My classes further informed the work I was already doing at the Cigar, and I’ve had countless role models and mentors along the way.

From my first article about students studying abroad over J-term, the Cigar helped me grow by leaps and bounds in my reporting. I’ve gone on to write about accessibility issues on campus for students with disabilities, our university’s commitment to transgender student rights to use the bathroom of their choice even after Title IX revisions were made last year, and students who went without heat in their dorms.  I’m proud to say I learned how to be a journalist from some of the best friends I could have ever asked for.

They’ve all helped me to think critically, to report objectively and to write effectively – but the friendships I’ve formed along the way have been the most valuable. We’ve supported each other through good times and bad times, laughed, cried, edited until the early hours of the morning and tried our best to provide the student body with the news they may not always want but definitely needed.

The most important thing that I’ve learn from from my time at the Cigar, however, is not something you can be taught in any classroom. The most valuable thing I’ve learned is that while we may not always be in control of where we end up in life or what happens to us, we are always in control of how we react once we get there.  It’s a lesson easier said than done, and one that’s all too easy to forget when life knocks us down. Often we are forced to relearn it, but this realization has the power to completely change our lives.

It is a lesson that I hope our future editorial staff carries with them wherever they go, and one I hope they’ll continue relearning.  To the future leaders of the Cigar, I wish you all all the success in the world, but more importantly I wish you all mistakes and failures which you can learn and grow from.  I hope that all of your setbacks and detours help you to go on to find passion, meaning and purpose. And in the face of what you might see then as defeat, I wish you the strength, resilience, courage and kindness to continue pushing forward towards the best possible version of yourself.

Above all, wherever you go in this world, I hope you take the knowledge and lessons you’ve learned here to make it a better one.