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Cameron Smith / Her Campus

My Beginning Journey to Environmental Journalism

I have always been an outdoors kid. For as long as I can remember, I would play in the trees and pretend I was a wild animal, or I would catch bugs and examine each and every part of them. I have always been fascinated by the trees and animals that were around me. I would write about them in my journal, and I would explain the stories and what was going on around me through writing. I wanted to change the world. 

When I had begun high school, we were all required to take biology class, and I was very excited. I was going to learn about all the living things around us. Every time we had a lab, I was super excited. I loved dissecting frogs and looking at cells under the microscope, I thought it was truly compelling. 

One day in my biology class we had a guest speaker come into our class, and she had explained about how our earth was dying. I was immediately shocked and had no idea what she was talking about. What do you mean our earth is dying? She had talked about global warming, and GMO’s, which at the time were words I had never heard of before. From then on, I had realized I wanted to become an environmentalist.

I entered Michigan State University with my major as “environmental studies and sustainability.” I was so ready to become an environmentalist and become a successful spokesperson for the environment. I wanted to share my message and aspiration for the environment and the urge to change our unsustainable ways. I wanted to change the world with my words. I hadn’t realized until halfway through my first semester in college that I was in the wrong major. I wanted to put myself out in the world through my writing and in order to do that I needed to change my career path.

I have never been able to best explain what I mean and feel through my verbal voice. I always talk my best when I write on a piece of paper.  

Ever since I was 8 years old, I have journaled my everyday life. I know — what does an 8-year-old have to say about their life? A lot. I would explain my emotions and feelings that I never felt I could express in my “real life” to others. I would share hopes and dreams from my brain to the paper in front of me. I would write about my wild dreams of running through meadows and turning into a lion. I would write about how I traded my fruit roll-up for a Capri sun. Whatever was happening around me, I would write about it. 

In November of my first semester of college, I had to write a disciplinary literacies paper for my writing class. I was nervous as I would have to interview someone who has a career of either my major or a major I was interested in. I had never interviewed a person who was a professional in a specific field. I began to do research on environmental journalists. I was scared to change my major to journalism as I thought that I wouldn’t be able to learn more about the environment and I would be stuck writing about everyday news or sports. It was then that I had come across the “Michigan State University: Knight Center for Environmental Journalism.” I was intrigued. I had finally found something on my campus that was for me. I found a group that was doing exactly what I wanted to do. I emailed David Poulson, the senior associate director of the Knight Center, and asked about an interview. He agreed to the interview. I was nervous, I was worried I wouldn’t be good enough to interview someone as successful as he was. Someone who was doing my dream job. I had interviewed him, and as I was doing it and learning about his experience as a former environmental journalist I was thinking in my head “this is exactly what I want to be doing.” 

Immediately after that interview, I had changed my major to journalism with a concentration in environmental health, science, and health reporting. 

I thought when I had entered college I had everything figured out, but I didn’t. I had to learn, and experience outside of my home town to fully realize what I wanted to do. That paper has changed my career path and has given me so much insight on what I truly wanted in life. I’m still on my journey to becoming an environmental journalist, but I know I’m going to get there. 

I am going to become an environmental journalist and change the world. 

Hi, I'm Gen! I'm the class of 2023 at Michigan State University. I'm very passionate about the environment and hope to soon become an Environmental Journalist. My hobbies include tennis, painting, and hanging with friends!
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