A Privilege, not an inconvenience

By Shannon Broderick

(Shannon Broderick)
(Shannon Broderick)

Four semesters.

That’s what I kept telling myself during my first semester at the University of Massachusetts, as a major-less, friend-less transfer student. If I worked hard, studied abroad and loaded up on courses, I could graduate on time. I would only have to be in Amherst for two years – a minor inconvenience – before I could leave this big, ugly, windy concrete maze of a campus, and move on to bigger and better things.

So I marched grimly from class to work and back to my dorm with my head down and my earbuds in. I was lonely, lost and overwhelmed, but wary of opening up and making friends. After all, this was just temporary.

I came down to the Massachusetts Daily Collegian office on a Wednesday evening in January because I loved to take photographs, and it seemed like the best place to do that. I shot my first event – a lecture in Tobin Hall – sweating nervously. The next morning, I raced down to check the paper and see if they were published. They weren’t, but I kept coming back anyways.

The Collegian was the reason that I decided to major in journalism. It gave me opportunities that I would have never had anywhere else to stand on the sidelines of Gillette during my first visit, to sit under the basket at the Barclays Center, to watch Bernie Sanders gesture wildly at the podium and see President Marty Meehan and Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy eat lunch. I even parked in Brooklyn without killing anyone. Twice.

And while I am forever grateful for all of these extraordinary opportunities, I’m more appreciative of having had the chance to witness my fellow students in action. Being a photojournalist allowed me to brush elbows with activists, athletes, academics, artists – to watch the stories of the UMass student body unfold in front of me. And as someone who’d rather observe than partake, who hovers on the edges of large groups, this suited me perfectly.

Over the course of four semesters, I covered lectures, protests, rallies, sit-ins, concerts and dozens of other events. And from hovering in the corner, camera in hand, I have learned so much about my classmates.

I know now that UMass students are kind – they are brave, and intelligent, and capable, and compassionate. They can be, on occasion, a little rowdy. But most of all, they are passionate. From serious issues – divestment from fossil fuels or a lack of diversity on campus – to lighter stuff – break-dancing or visits from therapy dogs – the students that I photographed were excited to be doing the things that they loved.

The students at the Collegian are no exception to this. In two years, I was lucky enough to work with some seriously talented journalists, who spend countless hours reporting, editing and producing a paper. People who make me want to work harder at what I do. I found friends who loved the same things that I did.

I stayed true to my word. I worked hard, did an exchange in Germany and sweated my way through some long semesters, and now I’m graduating on time. But UMass doesn’t feel like unfamiliar territory anymore, and the time I spent here doesn’t feel like a stop-over on my way to something better. Sometimes, I wish I had longer.

Four semesters weren’t an inconvenience, UMass. It was a privilege.

Shannon Broderick was an assistant photo editor and can be reached at [email protected].