Jenna Gyimesi ’19 could be found everywhere on Oberlin’s campus: she was the news editor for the Oberlin Review, a varsity field hockey player, an equestrian team and a fencing team member, vice president of the class of 2019, and cochair of the Student Honor Committee.
On top of all this, she was a triple major in politics, law and society, and philosophy with a concentration in cognitive science. Now, she is working toward a master’s in journalism at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
What are you currently doing at Columbia?
I would say that what I do is more like an internship in that I spend much more time in the field than in the classroom. The majority of what I do is reporting. The school tries to give students experience in a little bit of everything, so I do video, audio, breaking news, photography, narrative pieces, features, and data reporting. Currently, I am taking City Newsroom, a course in which I produce a weekly video or print story in addition to covering breaking news whenever it may happen. I am also taking education data reporting and am embedded in an elementary school in Brownsville, Brooklyn. My main priority right now is my master’s thesis, which is a long-form investigative piece looking into benzodiazepine overdoses on Staten Island.
How has your experience at Columbia Journalism School been so far?
It is certainly stressful at times, but my ability to research, to interview, and to provide context for stories has improved astronomically. At Columbia, they do not let you stay in your comfort zone. I have learned all sorts of new styles of journalism, and I surprised myself with what projects I enjoy working on. I have a better understanding of what I want to do, but there is always a sense of uneasiness when I try something I am not used to.
How did your time on The Oberlin Review and other extracurriculars prepare you for journalism school?
Working as a news editor at the Oberlin Review was definitely applicable to what I do now—I got to pitch and write my own stories as well as learn how to work collaboratively in a high-paced newsroom. Being on the field hockey team taught me the importance of finding a community and working together to support one another. I also was in OSCA, on the Honor Committee, and a member of the fencing team. All of these experiences made me a kinder, more compassionate, and an overall better person. I could not imagine my college experience without extracurricular activities, and the ways they added to my life are innumerable.
Do you have any advice for students interested in a similar career path?
I would advise people looking to follow a similar career path to be curious and to flex their reporting muscles. If you see something interesting, look into it. I would say to talk to as many people as you can, wherever you are. Ask them what they think needs to be talked about. Let people surprise you!
On a more practical level, internships are helpful for gaining experience and credentials. Keep in mind, however, that diverse backgrounds are necessary for journalism. Do not think that you have to limit yourself to journalism experience exclusively. Knowledge of other industries or intimate understanding of different communities is valuable and needed. One of my recent breakthrough moments was that I realized I had to follow my instincts. What I notice—what I take away from a situation—is my biggest asset, because I know no one else will see something the same way I do.
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