I’m on this plane, but it feels like a dream. I’ve wanted this trip to happen for so long. I always wanted to experience studying abroad, but for one reason or another all my plans crumbled as I repeatedly tried to do it. When I heard about the photojournalism program in Alicante, Spain I was extremely interested in it. Once I realized it was faculty led and the professor in charge was Jim Virga, I no longer felt the want for it, but I felt a certain need instead. Jim Virga has been the absolute most influential person in my life at UM.
Our relationship didn’t start off so positively though. The first time I had his class, I would continuously walk in late, or not go at all. If anyone knows Jim, they know he’s not the professor you do this with. He literally told me that I should drop his class because it wasn’t for “people like me.” Jim takes his career and photojournalism extremely serious, which is probably what makes him such an excellent professor. I never expected for this intro class to be difficult. At the time, I envisioned myself getting my doctorates in Psychology, who cared about a photo class? I thought it would be a joke. I wanted to learn more about photography, but merely as a hobby. boy have things changed.
Little by little, I started focusing more on photo than anything else. Nothing else mattered to me. I’ll never forget Jim’s words to me one afternoon… “When you’re older, you’ll look back and regret not having invested more time in the things you actually love doing.” This sounded too familiar to me.
My mentors from the honors college, Carlos, Alex, and Emily had always encouraged me along with the rest of their students to find our calling. The difference was that I didn’t genuinely know what my “path” was when they were my professors. During this photojournalism class though, I was on my way towards discovering it. I felt it. I loved finding stories to document and share. I realized the amount of curiosity I hold within, and my passion for making the unknown, known. I was so scared to take the next step though. Becoming a photographer, videographer, or journalist was so far from what I ever imagined to do. I already had my career planned, I knew all the next moves to make, did I have enough courage to drop it all and switch directions? Would my family accept this? Would I be broke? Would I even be good enough?
Well, with the full support and encouragement of my mom, my boyfriend Alex, and Prof. Virga, I decided to grab the ball and run with it. My mom taught me the importance of doing what you truly love, we have one life that goes by too fast. So why live unhappily? Alex taught me the power in believing and having faith in myself. If you don’t believe in yourself, absolutely no one else will either. And Jim taught me the necessity of chasing it all and pushing as hard as possible, because it definitely does not come easy.
3 Visual Journalism classes later, I find myself on my way to Spain holding my brand new Canon 5d Mark ii in my hands, with my mind, heart, and eyes wide open.
May 17, 2011. On my way to Madrid.