If somebody would have told me five years ago that I would be editor in chief of Lehigh University’s newspaper, frankly, my first reaction would have been, “Lehigh? Where’s that?”
It was through a conversation with a friend from Guatemala, who I serendipitously met the summer before my senior year in high school, that I learned about the university. I asked my professors and counselors about the school, not really expecting much in return, and suddenly it was as if all along, Lehigh had been a best-kept secret.
Once that acceptance letter came, I thought, why not? Mind you, I had never set foot on campus. All I knew was that I longed to leave Mexico and take on the East Coast.
I had lived in Mexico all of my life, but I am an American citizen who was educated in the U.S., so I couldn’t really imagine how my life would change other than I would no longer have to carry my passport every day.
As expected, I assimilated into the university almost seamlessly, but quite suddenly, I was overcome by growing pains my body had never experienced.
Noted American historian Will Durant said education is a progressive discovery of our ignorance. It’s one of my favorite quotations, and it fittingly describes the evolution of my education at Lehigh.
I became part of the small, though vibrant, local Latino community. No matter their country of origin, whether they were from Venezuela or El Salvador, most could proudly recount the history of their country, sing their national anthem without missing a note and cleverly debate their government’s policies. I was the worst Mexican.
Yes, I can speak Spanish fluently, but because of my bizarre condition—being the product of a border town and, therefore, being under the impression that two cultures presumably were distributed equally within me—I didn’t know half of what they did about my own country.
Perhaps the hardest part wasn’t being aware of my ignorance; perhaps it was asking myself, what else am I ignorant of?
Apparently, I was also very much unaware of what I wanted to study in college. My major remained undeclared for two semesters, when—unexpectedly and inexplicably—I decided I wanted to study business in the fall of my sophomore year.
A semester full of prerequisites later, I learned the hard way that accounting could not count on me.
At the same time, Mexico was similarly undergoing a transformation, but for the worse. After president Felipe Calderon decided to launch an offensive against drug cartels, insecurity blanketed Mexico. Besides my parents, news organizations were my only other direct link to the happenings in my country. That’s when I decided I would go into journalism.
Thanks to Lehigh, addressing the issue was an effortless endeavor. Through journalism, I learned that education does not stop as soon as the class is dismissed or as soon as you put down that book. It is put into practice, and what better way than in the pages of The Brown and White?
It seems like overnight, I went from not having a clue as to my purpose in life to ending up in a position that offers a range of possibilities.
My role as editor in chief means many things. It means getting a paper to the printers twice a week. It means staying alert to what happens on campus. It means communicating effectively with other editors and writers, as well as with professors and the administration. It means answering and sending a lot of e-mails. But this semester, there’s an additional responsibility for my role.
Because of my class’ shortage of journalism majors, most of the newspaper’s staff this semester is young. My role, and a personal goal, is to instill the same atmosphere of familiarity that existed before last year’s seniors left. Press nights are long, but nonetheless, they should be enjoyable enough so that a tradition that has lasted more than 100 years will be alive and well a century from now.
Liz Martinez ’11