I am not a journalist.
When I first came to UF, I was a graphic design major, and when I first joined The Alligator my freshman year that’s also what I was — a graphic designer.
My time on the multimedia desk gave me my first peek into what the journalism world really looked like. Growing up, I only saw the idealized version of it from Lois Lane in “Superman” and romantic comedies like Josie Geller from “Never Been Kissed” and Andie Anderson from “How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” (Side note: Why are so many female leads in romantic comedies journalists?)
Anyway, it wasn’t until I actually joined a newsroom that I got to see that process firsthand, and that glimpse was enough to light a spark of curiosity in me. The COVID-19 pandemic gave the reporters plenty to write about, but it also kept me at a distance from them. That barrier only fanned the flame and made the itch to learn worse.
And so, I took reporting classes to see what it was like for myself. It was tough, I won’t lie to you, but meeting new people, seeing new places, telling stories that haven’t been heard yet was so incredibly fulfilling in a way I had not experienced before. So I changed my major.
I switched the B.F.A in graphic design for a B.A. in art to give myself the space to take on journalism as a second major.
When I returned to The Alligator my junior year, I applied for a reporting position and was given a spot on metro as a general assignment reporter. That position and the people on that desk, taught me how to be a reporter. To Siena, Aidan, all of you, thank you.
While on metro, I discovered my affinity for feature writing, and the next semester, I decided to move to The Avenue, the arts and culture desk. It was there I got to write about Asian American culture and Taylor Swift. It was there I found my voice and the most growth, so thank you Lauren for giving me space to write about the things I was passionate about.
After that, I applied for an editing position because I wanted to create that space for others. I became the Avenue editor, the position I am in now. It was here I found the most fulfillment. So, to my reporters Alex, Bea, Bonny, Jared, Molly and Valentina, thank you. You taught me more than I ever taught you, and I can only hope you are one step closer to finding your voice.
Finally, thank you to Isabella, Emma and Claire for giving me the chance to shape the newsroom the way so many others before me have.
After five semesters at The Alligator, I am no stranger to challenging assignments. I have had to create graphics in less than an hour. I have written about new state laws and the K-9 controversy in Gainesville. (Politics has never been my thing.)
But trying to describe how much The Alligator means to me has been the most difficult assignment I’ve been given.
How do I thank all the editors that shaped me, all the reporters that made the work feel less like work and more like fun? How do I explain the way I have changed into a better storyteller and person from everything I learned? How do I say goodbye to a place, a newsroom, that will always, always be part of me?
I used to think I was good with words, but I can’t seem to find the right ones this time. I hope this is enough.
This isn’t really goodbye. For one I hate goodbyes; they make me sad. But also, I know The Alligator will never leave me.
I am not a journalist. But The Alligator made me want to change my major.
I’m not exactly sure what I am now, but I am excited to take that next step toward what that will be.
While I will take my experience with The Alligator with me, I leave you with my bylines and this final piece of advice: Don’t be afraid to nurture that curiosity. You never know where it will lead you. You never know what you will become.
Aubrey Bocalan was the Fall 2023 Avenue Editor at the Independent Florida Alligator.
Aubrey Bocalan is a third-year journalism major. She is also pursuing a double major in Art. When she isn't writing, she's probably watching TV with her dog, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore Bocalan.