This column is sponsored by Mishka’s, “Surfing with the Alien” and the urge to say “thank you” rather than “goodbye”
Four years, three cracked screen protectors, two majors, one minor and an (ongoing) pandemic later, I still remember my first venture to The California Aggie on a fateful Friday in October 2018. I made my way over for my staff writer interview after having finished a math midterm in Giedt. The whopping four-minute bike ride took a little longer because my floral pants got caught in my bike gears. I reached 25 Lower Freeborn 20 minutes early, and once I was called in for my interview, I shared what I’m sure were ever-so-insightful answers about prior journalism experience and why I wanted to work at The Aggie. Less than 24 hours later, I got an email entitled: “Welcome to The Aggie!” and thus began the chaos.
Actually, I guess the chaos began much earlier — I won’t bore you with details about being a sportswriter at my high school’s newsmagazine, but just know that I knew almost everything there was to know about field hockey. By the time I graduated high school, I had settled into being a student journalist. I even wrote a senior column about words — it was a love affair with words, my 17-year-old self gushed, and it was no surprise that my need to be enveloped by words led me to the magazine. I pretty much knew I wanted to write for a college newspaper wherever I ended up.
The past four years have taught me a lot — notably, journalism really isn’t only about words. It’s about nuance, respecting your sources, investigating and holding institutions accountable. It’s about knowing the privilege that comes with being a journalist and realizing the trust that is placed in us.
In my first year at The Aggie, I learned an immense amount from Friday editing sessions and observations of potentially biohazardous bagels with the most incredible editor (and fellow Gemini). By my second year, I saw Lower Freeborn as more than a workplace — it housed history and was a beloved spot for seasoned Aggie editors. As I started to spend more time there, I took on more tasks, met new people and tried to solidify who I was within and outside the walls of that structurally unsound basement. And then it was March 2020, short months after which I was selected to lead The Aggie for the next year.
Over the pandemic, we’ve all faced loss in so many different, substantial ways. Those losses, still being processed, are so significant. But in this time fraught with grief, The Aggie has provided a space to heal and grow and has given me so much.
I could write all about the articles I’ve written, the hiring interviews I’ve conducted, the emails I’ve fielded or the Senate meetings I’ve cried after. But I’d much rather tell you about the pickleball games I’ve almost won, the book about beavers I recommend to everyone, the most absurd jokes we’ve shared at layout and the people who have become some of my closest friends.
Someone I don’t know too well once criticized me and The Aggie, claiming the Editorial Board consisted of a bunch of friends who blindly supported each other and didn’t care to produce “quality journalism.” I never worked on a news desk, but I’ll break it to you — that could not be further from the truth.
Existing in a pandemic, especially in a completely remote year, was hard on everyone, and in spite of that, the staff at The Aggie tackled tough stories with integrity and grit. When contentious topics came up, we had meaningful discussions with a fair share of disagreements, as we aimed to hold others and ourselves accountable. We care a lot about quality journalism. Becoming friends along the way — through meeting daily on and off Zoom, leaving comments on shared Google Docs and preparing questions to ask the chancellor and other leaders — was, frankly, an unexpected bonus. My fondness for pickleball and Aggie inside jokes isn’t to say that I don’t value my work as a student journalist, but that the work is simply impossible without the people behind it.
Of course, I knew that previous Editorial Boards had become close, but I joined the Editorial Board in 2020 and things were unprecedented. How was I to expect that the people I saw over Zoom (and two extremely socially-distanced picnics) would become some of my closest friends? In any case, I am so, so grateful that I have had the opportunity to be among this fiercely intelligent, incredibly kind and generally chaotic group. Finally moving to our new home on A St. and having 120 Editorial Board meetings this year (in addition to the 120 meetings last year, trips to Sophia’s and other assorted shenanigans) probably means I’ve spent more than enough time with them, but as I write this, it’s hard to comprehend that this chapter is about to end. To the greddest board of all: Thank you for the games of fidget toss and pickleball, for late night library runs, midday pho breaks and Warriors game margaritas, for your commitment to The Aggie and for fostering an empowering environment for us and future generations here at UC Davis. There’s no group I’ve been more proud to be a part of.
To everyone else I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the past four years, thank you as well. Your contributions have made me a more thoughtful writer, editor and person. To my professors and instructors, thank you for broadening my perspective and preparing me to challenge lines of thinking I disagree with. To my incredible friends and housemates, thank you for all the advice and for putting up with my lengthy monologues. And to my family, thank you most of all.
Honestly, I did not expect to fall in love with Davis when I wound up here. I prefer walking to biking, it can be unpleasantly hot for a lot of the year and there are far too many squirrels for my liking. But here I am 12 quarters later, just a little obsessed with this cow town; it’s in no small part due to the people and places The Aggie has led me toward.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to exist, learn and find some of my best friends in this wonderful place, and all of that has prepared me to graduate. That said, I am still somewhat terrified to leave behind the best Egghead (Stargazer), the best patch of grass to take a nap on (I’ll keep that to myself) and the cat we’ve deemed Newspaper (though it certainly already has a name and owner). But Calvin from “Calvin and Hobbes” is right. It is a magical world, and I’m ready to go exploring.
Written by: Anjini Venugopal
Anjini Venugopal is The California Aggie’s current editor-in-chief. She joined The Aggie in fall 2018 as a features staff writer. In spring 2019, she took on the role of assistant features editor, serving in that role until becoming editor-in-chief in July 2020. She is graduating with honors with a bachelor’s degree in linguistics and cognitive science with a computational emphasis and a minor in computer science.