Here I am

Here I am, at Missouri School of Journalism.

I remember when I told my professor at college that MU is my final decision, her initial response was “Why do you want to pursue journalism? Look how chaotic and disappointing the news environment is in Taiwan. You won’t get better job after then,” even though I know she was extremely proud of me and invited me to give a speech to her students.

She is not the only one holding this worry, but every one around me.

I know that news organizations in Taiwan, or basically anywhere in the world, are partnered with advertisers, and married with sensationalism, ideology, hyperbole and political impartiality duo to intricate business structure.

Given this, I am still intrigued by the informative, challenging nature of journalism. Most importantly, I am affirmed in my belief that those journalistic skills I learn can be translatable. How to analyze data, how to comb through complex threads to make sense the information, how to be on the side of justice as a watchdog for the public good, how to use multi-media to effectively tell a story, how to earn people’s trust, how to be a better person… are inclusive of journalistic skills.

I am not 100 percent affirmative of becoming a reporter one day; however, I am 100 percent certain that these skills, mindsets and capacities can travel through different fields and professions.

Why I choose MU’s J-School is not due to my goal of being a journalists, but duo to my expectation of what and who I want to be.

I want to do something different, something just, something small but vitally necessary to someone, something helpful to the society, and to the underprivileged.

I frown every time when someone asks me of whether I want to be a journalist or anchor one day. It’s annoying and shallow, especially I need to explain all this to someone who I probably only met for less than 10 minutes. And even after my thoughtful explanations, some just cannot understand.

I think I would never ask a law student of whether he/she wants to be an attorney.

I know this sort of stereotypical expectation of someone’s journalism major will definitely follow and haunt me for my entire life.

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Mizzou

Here it is: Mizzou, or University of Missouri-Columbia.

After nearly two years of preparation and a series of self-doubts and stumbles, I received the admission letter from Mizzou’s prestigious School of Journalism.

To be honest, the time when Mizzou admitted me, I knew deeply in my mind: This is it. It’s my first reaction. No hesitation. No second thoughts.

Well, second thoughts intruded my mind after a couple of days when I told my friends that I am going to Missouri.

“Mizzouri? Misery? Mi-mi-what?” It is their reaction knowing of my decision. You know not a few people in Taiwan ever heard of the state of Missouri, let alone they know that there is a top-ranking Journalism school in the nation hidden in the Midwest.

Their response drained out my initial excitement and calmed my adrenaline. Or you can say their ignorance partnered with my annoying self-esteem drove me to a path of second thought.

It’s imbecile that I had that second thought, that doubt, and that reliance on how and what other’s perceive my decision, especially it’s based on their misunderstanding of Missouri.

Truth, however, speaks itself loud that this is the greatest decision that I have ever made.

There are three reasons why I choose Mizzou.

First, it is curriculum. Just check out our website. Its diverse tracks and hands-on real media training are cited the top 1 in the nation. http://journalism.missouri.edu/

It’s just hard to say no.

Then, budget. This is something I was shocked by University of Missouri. Why? More than 95 percent of graduate students and Ph.D. students at School of Journalism do NOT have to pay their tuition due to the holding of either graduate assistantship or teaching assistantship. This semester, I only paid $1,200. And I also get stipend every month. The amount of stipend depends on the number of hours one works a week and the budget of that program.

So, no tuition, no worries of living expense. All you have to do is “hey come over here, be productive and do great, professional news.”

The last reason is quite odd than others: I don’t want to live in major cities.

I’ve been living in a crowded city with more than 2.3 million population for 24 years. I want fresh air, big house, quiet night and sky full of stars.

I want quality of life.

But I should have known that once committed to journalism, there’s no such thing in life.

Anyway, I want to explore something I’ve never experienced before and it turned out to be a wise move.

Columbia’s family-based and hospitable atmosphere fits me so perfectly. The more I travel to different cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Boston and Baltimore, the more attached I feel for Columbia.

This is indeed the best decision ever: Mizzou.

So far, there’s no doubts on this biggest decision I’ve made in my life.

Never give up

You might fall, but you won’t fail.

You might fail your standard tests; you might receive rejection letters right after you sent the application; you might start doubting your motives, your ability, your intelligence, and your goal, but trust me, you won’t lose this battle.

The journey is full of valleys and bumps.

No shame to admit that I took four times of TOEFLE test in total within a year and a half. I still remember how nerve-wrecking and frustrating I am right after the last one since I am affirmed in my mind that if I didn’t meet the requirement at this time, the likelihood of getting into Journalism School is preposterously low.

The requirement of getting into a prestigious Journalism programs is at least 107 for TOEFLE. I got 109 at the last one.

It’s a self-communication circle of building confidence and being smashed.

You can give up. I hate to say that. It’s one of the options.

But, DON’T!

If you are already setting this goal of studying abroad, and you have the resources and supports, just let it go so easily. Tons of people crave for this opportunity; tons of people try to squeeze themselves into the narrow door of national scholarships in an attempt to have the chance to go abroad; tons of people might rely on your professionalism when you get back; it is the challenge that you will identify your own values and virtues. It’s about persistence, fearlessness, resilience and responsibility.

Most of all, studying is a privilege, especially higher education. It’s not a prevalent activity that most people can afford.

If you have the thoughts of giving up, go take a wake. Have some refresh air and come back there keep on working.

The decision I made

It may sound clichéd but it is the truth that applying a master program is through a myriad of critical decisions: What program fits me? Even though I got in that prestigious program, are you sure that I am qualified enough? What about their alumni connection? What’s the academic atmosphere? Should I go on a campus tour before the decision is made…?

The list is endless and there is no right or wrong.

That’s the tricky part. Since no one is under the same circumstances, I don’t believe anyone can just succeed by coping others’. The first thing you need to know is: Find the answer on your own. If you want to know more about that program, don’t just Google it. Make a phone call!

You are right! Make the phone call.

To whom? Call the administrator at the university that you are interested in, and ask that person of whether there is a chance you can talk to a student who is already enrolled in that program. Normally, university has this connection and resources.

Personally, I didn’t make the phone call, but I know that Mizzou Journalism School is my perfect fit. How? Merely looking at their official website. Missouri School of Journalism puts nearly every information on the website, even including syllabus and students’ work.

When I was doing the research of all programs I apply, I already know that I would either choose investigating reporting or convergence journalism, by browsing through the website.

This is something you need to do.

Keep in mind that no one can make the decision for you and no one can judge the decisions you made. How to make the right move depends on how much work you’ve been working on in advance.

Journalism?

My major in undergraduate is Radio & Television. Once the decision of studying abroad has been made, I know of what I am going to pursue is either journalism or MBA. But why journalism?

 

Many told me this is a dying industry. There’s no need to spend tens of thousands of dollars learning something that has shrinking job market and notorious reputation of its decaying nature to the society. Many, including my professor, are afraid that pursuing journalism would nothing but distance my quixotic idealism with brutal reality since the news environment in Taiwan is rife with sensationalism, political expediency, or tawdry slander. (The truth is this doesn’t just happen in Taiwan, but everywhere)

 

It’s a matter of journalistic skills, not being a journalist.

 

Why I commit to journalism is the training of journalistic skills. What are journalistic skills? In short, it’s about how to tell a story by using multiple disciplines through various platforms, how to analyze, interpret numbers, data, o report and translate the information into comprehensible knowledge that the public has easy access to, how to communicate with others and myself, how to be humble in front of truth and intractable to the authority, and simply, how to be a better man…

 

These journalistic skills can be applied universally.

 

Interestingly, what the journalistic skills or journalistic temperament means here is echoed by Lee Bollinger, a legal scholar who turned the president of Columbia University. Lee writes here not of journalists but rather of professors:

 

“I would say the most valued trait is that of having the imaginative range and the mental courage to explore the full complexity of the subject. To set aside one’s preexisting beliefs, to hold simultaneously in one’s mind multiple angles of seeing things, to allow yourself to believe another point of view as you consider it…The stress is on seeing the difficulty of things, on being prepared to live closer than we are inclined to the harsh reality and of being willing to undermine even our common sense for the possibility of seeing something hidden. To be sure, that kind of extreme openness of intellect is exceedingly difficult to master, and, in a profound sense, we never do. Because it runs counter to many of our natural impulses, it requires both daily exercise and a community of people dedicated to keeping it alive.”

 

This mindset of dedication to truth, to the public good, to the honesty of self’s inadequacy is something I relish and something an intellectual should keeps in mind.

Mindset

I started making preparation for the application of master programs when I was 22. I spent two years studying GRE and TOEFL. 3 TOEFLE tests and 2 GRE exams had been taken.

I am 25.

It’s been a marathon, a marathon full of valleys and bumps, a marathon paved with dirt and rocky roads, a marathon of loneliness and self-doubts. However, it’s a marathon that makes you grow and fearless, makes you taste the fruit of change and limitlessness of yourself.

You need to be a gladiator, a wolf, and a warrior. You need to know how to prioritize your long list and personal desire.

I still remember I rushed into GRE private academy after a 13-hour documentary shooting of my graduation project and dragged myself into midnight subway after class; I remember after a 9-hour substitute military service for local government, I still need to go to library staring at my laptop watching TED talk so as to practice my listening; I still remember how frustrated I was as I first got my TOEFL score…

This happens to anybody. The feeling of aimlessness, exhaustion, removal of hedonism that your peers are enjoying happens to everyone who is ambitious or more as I was and aware that this is the only path to elevate him/herself to a higher level, and there is no way to turn back.

By saying this, it’s because you would probably have seen a myriad of advertisements of how people get 160+ score in GRE within six months or how people get into Ivy League. No one, sadly, tells you that how lonely, dark, and challenging the journey is behind the glamour.

By the way, not everyone needs to spend over $50,000 a year to prove that he/she is smart and able to hunt a job with that certificate. Choosing the university that fits your academic needs is all that matters. I was once so eager to go to NYU and Northwestern, but after going to Mizzou, I realize how shallow and dangerous that thought can be: Even you spent hundreds of dollars buying a pair of Manolo Blahnik high heels that draw all attentions but don’t fit your feet at all, you know deeply inside your heart that under the gorgeous embroidery is your swollen wounded feet.

Don’t pursue something blindly, especially education.

Prepare that you have a battle ahead.

Know that you are different and fortunate enough to be part of it.

And fight.

where should I start

To most of my friends who plan to study abroad, their very first question is always:

International_Signs

Where should I start?

Follow with: how could I finish all these preposterously abstruse standard examinations within 10 months (you shouldn’t have started this so late!!); how do you prepare your TOEFL and GRE; I am not quite sure about what fields I am really interested in, what am I gonna do (Seriously?); should I go to the English academy or consulting institutions where they can help me figure out and handle all annoying application process; how much money should my parents prepare (I got to say: As an Asian, I feel utterly privileged that my parents support my education mentally and FINANCIALLY. Most of my friends need to either work part-time job or hunt a paid internship to meet the ends.)…

Let me answer these questions:

1. I hate to say that it really depends on the individuals in terms of how much time you need to prepare TOEFLE and GRE. But in general, I would suggest you should give yourself at least a year to nail these down. As for the workflow, if you have a better command of English, starting with GRE then TOEFLE can be beneficial. Here is why: GRE contains much higher level of vocabulary, literacy and logical reasoning while TOEFLE is more conversational with light academic knowledge base.

It’s always better to suffer first, and then taste the sweet.

I highly recommend going to private English academies particularly for GRE test in that they hold more resources and I have to say it would be time-consuming and torturing for you to memorize nearly 5,000 new, recondite words and read over snarky articles on your own within several months. But!!! If you happen to be those who always plan ahead and get more sufficient time to prepare, the answer is definitely NO. NO, you don’t need to spend nearly $1,000 for learning English. As a matter of fact, online resources are rich and mostly, free. Here’s a website I highly recommend everyone to read: http://magoosh.com/gre/2014/gre-reading-practice-writers-in-the-new-york-times/

There’s a myriad of resources you can have access to on the Internet. Stop being lazy. Google it.

Last, how much do your parents/you need to have is something you need to take into consideration. We all know that most of the universities will ask you for a bank statement certification of account balance as a proof prior to your admission. If your parents are more financially supportive and your goal is to enter those Ivy League or notoriously expensive private universities, $60,000 a year would be your answer. It’s a lot. I know! I was planning to go to NYU for journalism in the first place; yet, once I calculate the total amount, I feel like it’s not a wise investment for my parents and myself.

Many factors affect me to make the decision of going to Mizzou. First is the obvious: It values hands-on experience and its reputation in U.S.A. is fairly well known. Plus, Mizzou provides plenty of Graduate Assistantship and Teaching Assistantship opportunities for graduate and PhD students, which means that as long as I get a GRA or TA position, my tuition will be waived. Nearly 85 percent of graduate students hold GRE or TA. This is the top choice for students who are ambitious to squeeze into a revered journalism Pantheon and have tight budget.

You need to be smart in making choices. Don’t be sugarcoated or blinded by others’ opinions. You know exactly what you are capable of. Just keep in mind: plan ahead, stay optimistic and just do it.