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Column connects student to home

by Anna Buckley / Beacon Staff • November 1, 2012

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Freshman Victoria Hulbert's column runs twice a month.
Freshman Victoria Hulbert's column runs twice a month.

When Victoria Hulbert’s friends and family pick up their local newspaper in Torrance, Calif. every other Monday, it’s as if she never traveled the 3,000 miles to college.

Hulbert, a freshman writing, literature, and publishing major, writes a column, “The Freshman,” twice a month about her Emerson experience for her hometown newspaper, The Daily Breeze. The paper, which circulates to 66,000 people every day,  has run columns written by college freshmen for over five years to give both parents and high school students a glimpse of what a new college student is up to, said Hulbert.

The application for the spot was open to all high school seniors in the Torrance area, said Hulbert.  She and fellow South Bay native, Riley Davis — who attends Brown University — got the job this past summer after sending in writing samples, resumes, and completing an interview process.

Hulbert wrote her first column in September, and she has written four columns to date. The topics range from learning to love city life to her professors at college.

Hulbert said it can be a bit of a shock when she’s reminded that The Daily Breeze has readers from Los Angeles all the way to Long Beach. She said she’s reminded of this large reader base due to all of the positive, as well as negative, feedback from readers she has received. 

“That kind of makes you step back and realize tons of people are reading this,” Hulbert said. “You kind of have to take it with a grain of salt, but it also makes you realize that you have to watch what you say when you put things out there.”

When debating what to write about, Hulbert said she prefers to wait until something happens. When nothing particularly exciting came about, Hulbert said she decided to write about getting mail in college, and she explained the lesson she learned from taking the time to appreciate “snail mail.”

“Funnily enough, it isn’t until I actually find a letter or postcard in my mailbox that I remember how far away from home I actually am,” Hulbert wrote in her column.

Hulbert also said that choosing her words carefully is important, so she can make sure her voice is authentic, and she’ll be proud of her column once she reads it in print.

“Sometimes I’ll type things and then I’ll backspace, backspace, backspace, because I’m like, ‘I shouldn’t say that,’” she said. “Sometimes I’ll read things, and I’ll be like, ‘That is so cliché. I would never say that. Why did I write that?’”

Once her article is written, Hulbert sends it off to be edited by the features editor and then published. Hulbert said her goal is to share her college life so people can learn and grow from what she has to say.

“Where I live next to the beach on the West Coast, it’s a very different environment,” she said. “The people who have never been here might not understand the transition, so I think reading it allows you to learn more about people without even having to leave your house.”

Davis, another freshman columnist for The Daily Breeze, said that having someone in a similar situation is encouraging and helpful, as she and Hulbert can collaborate to find ideas. Davis also said she really enjoys reading Hulbert’s column.

“Victoria’s column is great—I love reading it, and I read it every week, both to cross-reference what she’s talking about with my column and because they’re really enjoyable,” Davis said.

Davis said that for her and Hulbert, this opportunity allows them to evaluate their new lives in college.

“Everything I attend, I’m looking at it with a journalistic eye because I’m thinking, ‘Okay, how can I write about this in my column? How does this tie into my experience at Brown? How would kids at other schools relate to this?’” Davis said. “It influences how you look at your freshman year, and it forces you to reflect on it a little bit more than I think kids would otherwise.”

According to Hulbert, the job is also helping her add to her resume, and has introduced her to the professional world of journalism. She said she has a goal of being a professional columnist after she graduates. 

Hulbert said she gets paid $50 per column and signs a freelance agreement every month. The most rewarding part about writing her column, according to Hulbert, has been sharing her new life with her friends and family back home.

“I’ve always felt like writing is my way of getting everything out, so [the column] is like my way of telling them, ‘This is what’s going on,’” she said. “It’s a little piece of me that I can leave behind at home.”