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Clubs and Extracurriculars in College: Journalism

By: Amy Xiang

While some students go into college knowing exactly what they want to study and what clubs they want to join, others need a little more time to explore before they find their passions. Because her high school did not offer many clubs or leadership opportunities, ACLP Writer Amy Xiang found herself feeling lost and confused when it came time to join clubs in college.

During the beginning of Amy’s first semester, she attended many club information sessions and settled on a few she wanted to try out. Even though she had no formal experience in writing or journalism, Penn’s student-run magazine, 34th Street, immediately stood out to her.

“As soon as I heard about 34th Street, I knew I wanted to join. I spent the next few days reading literally every article that had been published on the website in the last year, just because I was so interested in the content,” Amy says. “I was a little intimidated because these people all seemed like such professional writers, meanwhile I had never written anything that wasn’t for English class.”

Nonetheless, Amy decided to apply for a few writing positions and hoped that they would give her a chance. A few weeks later, in late September, she officially became part of the team as a profile writer.

“Profiles are basically super in-depth articles about one person. But unlike biographies, which cover a person’s entire life story, profiles are framed around a particular part of that person’s life, whether that’s an important event, a unique passion, or an inspiring story,” Amy says. “For 34th Street, we talk to really cool Penn students, professors, and other community members to share their stories.”

She spent her first and second semester of college conducting interview after interview, writing profile after profile. Amy started feeling more confident with each article that was published, and she realized that writing — journalism, in particular — is something she truly found joy in.

Amy, now a sophomore, is starting her second year at 34th Street as a features writer—a position she didn’t think she would reach until at least junior year. “Features” pieces are much longer, and they often rely very heavily on reporting and research on a specific topic. They are also on the front and center of the magazine’s weekly print issues.

“I always think back to freshman-year-me reading all the long-form features articles in awe, and I realized that I have to live up to those standards now,” she says. “I am super excited, though, and I’m constantly grateful that 34th Street gave me the opportunity to not only learn the basics of journalism, but also allow me to work my way up into more advanced writing.”

Amy’s advice for new college students is to step out of their comfort zones when looking for clubs to join and to not feel discouraged if they have to start at square one. That’s exactly what Amy did, and although she is still undecided about her major, her interest in writing will definitely play a big role in her future decision — and it’s all thanks to a school magazine.

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