Usually, I feel like I am not the best at making the most out of the opportunities presented to me. I do things I’m comfortable with and stick to a routine I know. However, I recently stepped outside my comfort zone and it paid off.
A few days before fall break, I was sitting in my Shakespeare class when I received an email from CNN saying I had been approved for a press pass to the Democratic Presidential Debate at Otterbein University. I could barely contain my excitement and was shocked that my role as one of the editors in chief of The Wooster Voice was able to grant me access to the largest presidential primary debate in history. To many, attending the debate probably wouldn’t be a big deal, but in my family, debates and election nights are like the Superbowl is to devoted football fans.
On Tuesday, Oct. 15, I arrived at the media check-in and security as early as possible and received my press pass. I sat down in the “Press Filing Center,” a room attached to the spin room with about 300 seats for journalists to work. Until the debate started in 10 hours, there wasn’t anything specific to do. In general, I am not an outgoing person and I struggle to find the courage to go and network with strangers, even though I know it would be beneficial. However, I knew I would be angry with myself for weeks if I didn’t make the most out of this opportunity. I told myself I had to talk to at least three journalists and try my best to pose a question to one of the candidates.
After talking to Wolf Blitzer, Bret Baier, Ken Klippenstein and two journalists from the Associated Press, I had achieved my goal. Blitzer explained to me why he thought journalism was a great career. Klippenstein told me it was okay to not know your exact career trajectory as soon as you graduate. To my relief, all of them were cordial, passionate and eager to talk about their careers. I realized I had been silly to be worried the journalists would think I was bothering them.
After the debate, in the spin room, I stood shoulder to shoulder in a ring with reporters from major news networks and asked candidate Tom Steyer a question. He was happy to answer and even asked my name, age and what organization I represented.
The entire debate experience — working in the press filing center for ten hours, talking to other journalists, asking a question to a candidate for the Democratic nomination — validated myself as a journalist. I’ve worked on the Voice staff for three years and have had three news internships, but have never been a part of anything as big as the debate. I wasn’t sure if the questions I planned to ask the candidates were as competent as other reporters’, and I was afraid other reporters would be bothered by a student journalist talking to them.
I realized that in the future, I should have more faith in myself as a journalist. I thought I had a .05 percent chance of getting a press pass. I thought I had an even worse chance of talking to a candidate. But the risk I took paid off incredibly. We need to be confident when we enter our career fields, because we’re more qualified and ready than we think. Our education and internships have prepared us for significant moments in our futures, and we must have the confidence to take risks, make the most of our opportunities and try to achieve our goals, no matter how far-fetched they may seem.