At Her Campus American (HCAU), we hope to create a space for women and non-binary students to explore the many facets of journalism, immerse themselves in the happenings of campus and Washington, D.C. and find community with a team who celebrates everyone’s successes.
Here’s what our editors have to say about the role HCAU has played in their college careers:
Connection in a Time of Aloneness
A navy blue and crisp white bedroom with a twin bed centered in the space. That was my freshman year college campus.
I entered American University during the COVID-19 pandemic, where my entire first year was virtual. My childhood bedroom became a venue for making college connections – albeit small, lonely and in suburban New Jersey rather than Washington, D.C.
The virtual club fair in my first few weeks as an AU student felt like it would determine the rest of my college career – a heavy burden to bear when I wasn’t even on campus. But somehow, I found the perfect fit in a Zoom breakout room with the leader of Her Campus at AU.
Her Campus was my community at AU when community quite literally didn’t exist. The purposelessness I felt was channeled into writing articles about things I actually cared about, rather than news about distasteful cafeteria food and parking disputes like I wrote in my high school newspaper.
During my first semester as a writer for Her Campus, I wrote about voting, gender reveals that caused forest fires, access to birth control, body image and loneliness. These were issues that mattered to me and to the AU community. They weren’t just campus news – these works represented our lives at the time.
This year, I’m the editor-in-chief at Her Campus, graduating with a dual degree in Journalism in Political Science in May. I’m still trying to make sure we cover issues that are important to our community and represent our real lives, including the joyous art of connection.
A Soft Launch into a New Career Path
If mentors had a dollar for every time they comforted a directionless student by saying it’s okay to change paths, they’d probably be able to afford the cost of tuition these days. But despite this advice being drilled into me, I still felt like I was falling behind when I began to question my major choice.
The idea of switching into the School of Communication was a whisper in my head during my sophomore year, but I never wrote for my high school newspaper and I didn’t know how to interview people.
I’m the New Yorker’s biggest fan and almost every book I read is a work of nonfiction journalism. But before I explored a career in that type of writing myself, I decided to apply to be an HCAU writer to test the waters.
I’m now entering my sixth semester as a member of HCAU, and I’ll be graduating in December with a degree in Journalism and French. HCAU created a space for me to interview people who I’d never otherwise meet, develop my own interests and passions to pitch story ideas and experience the feeling of holding my work in a published magazine.
A Way to Let My Words Escape
Thinking of something to say was never an issue for me. Ideas constantly flooded my mind during conversation, but I often didn’t like the words I generated. I didn’t have any confidence in them. Out of fear that others would think the same, I kept my words locked away. I would rather have no sound than sound stupid.
The paralyzing dread of being wrong dictated everything that came out of my mouth. It created a mental blockage that left me staring blankly during conversation. It was a struggle that served as a constant reminder of the lack of confidence I had in my own voice.
I could feel the filter I placed on my words constricting during my first year at American University. I meticulously curated every word, phrase and sentence to appease others and make a favorable impression. This process became so exhausting that I rarely let my thoughts reach the light of day. The pressure from the buildup of words became unbearable. I desperately needed an outlet.
A feeling of relief washed over me upon approaching the HCAU table at the fall involvement fair during my sophomore year. Having a platform where I could write about virtually anything seemed like a dream, but the reality was better than I could have imagined.
As a journalism major, I was already pretty confident in my writing abilities. I found comfort in my writing, and I could feel the weight of my thoughts slowly begin to lift.
The true solace, however, came from my integration into the HCAU community. I was welcomed with open arms, and my need to appease others seemed to vanish. All of my ideas were met with an open mind, and the constructive criticism I received from my editor helped me overcome my fear of ridicule.
Being exposed to such a diverse range of perspectives suddenly made the idea of censoring what I say unfathomable. I realized that I was part of a collective that celebrated individuality and thrived off of diversity, and to contribute was to speak my truth.
My confidence has only grown since becoming a section editor. Through editing, I’ve discovered the transformative power of leadership and honed the ability to recognize the unique strength in everyone’s work, which serves as a reminder that there’s strength in my work as well. The support and encouragement from my fellow editors and e-board members were critical in subduing my self doubt and empowering me to lead with conviction.
My time with HCAU has shown me that my voice matters and my words have value. I couldn’t be more grateful to be a part of such a passionate and uplifting community.
Breaking the Mold
I came to American University studying general Communication Studies, knowing absolutely nothing about my own major. My high school was extremely STEM-focused, so much so that students were only considered intelligent and successful if they were at the top level in math and science. I struggled a lot in my STEM classes, resulting in feelings of embarrassment, insecurity and uncertainty.
I did, however, enjoy and excel in writing, especially since I wrote and edited for my high school paper. So, I decided to pick Communications as a general major and went off to American University.
I clearly had no idea what I was doing. I had never been taught journalism before, and simply would write articles based on what I saw other journalists do. When I began taking courses as an underclassman, my professors taught me how to structure an article, interview others, decide on content and more.
Joining Her Campus was the perfect opportunity. We have a lovely and welcoming community, encouraging each other to write on topics we are passionate about. I have quickly grown in my ability to write and edit. I was even lucky enough to participate on our executive board and learn how to lead a team of writers.
Academic environments can easily become competitive and toxic. But the Her Campus community is different, and I hope to provide the same sentiment of support to newcomers. I have become more confident in not only my abilities, but also in myself.