Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Home is where the heart is

A thank you note to the newspaper that defined my life
Courtesy of Pedro Gray Soares

For weeks, I’ve subconsciously neglected writing this because it means my time here is done. I blocked it from my brain; didn’t even think of it until the very last moment. Now I’m not sure I can do justice to my time at the Massachusetts Daily Collegian.

Every time I tell someone I’m an international student from Madrid, Spain, their immediate response is almost always “Why UMass?” The truth is, it kind of just happened. I don’t know why I came here. Well, that’s only partly true. The full truth is a little embarrassing, so I generally refrain from telling the story. It just seems silly to say that I chose UMass because I loved the New England Patriots.

I always knew I wanted to study in the United States and that I wanted to work in sports. Football was my favorite sport as a teenager, and my love for the Patriots turned my eyes to Massachusetts. From then, it just occurred naturally. As would eventually become a common theme throughout my time at the Collegian, the stars aligned.

They aligned when I first joined the paper during the fall of my sophomore year, immediately getting to cover men’s soccer with my first Collegian friend, the contagiously joyful Freddy Hanna III, who was also in the men’s basketball beat. Stars aligned again when Freddy vouched for me and I got a spot to cover men’s basketball with him and Joey Aliberti, still during my first semester at the paper. With just four bylines to my name, I was barely even considered a staff member when Joey, Freddy and Lulu Kesin took a chance on me, and for that I’m forever grateful. Men’s hoops with Freddy and Joey is still my most treasured memory at UMass.

They helped me come out of my shell and develop as a journalist, always incentivizing growth while making my stomach hurt from laughing. No matter what we did together, it was always the most fun I’d had. That insecure international kid finally belonged somewhere.

On Nov. 12, 2021, UMass men’s basketball travelled to face Yale in the second game of the season. The Collegian travelled too, and it would be only my sixth story for the paper. I was extremely nervous, but even more excited. Freddy was driving his silver Toyota Camry, Joey was in the passenger seat and someone named McKenna Premus, who came along to take pictures, sat in the back. I sat next to her and introduced myself.

“Are you new to the Collegian?” I asked.

Joey tried to contain his laugh. Freddy looked over his shoulder in disbelief.

“Bro, she’s the managing editor!” he said.

Him and Joey started laughing. I couldn’t have been more embarrassed and wouldn’t even have been mad if McKenna fired me on the spot. I apologized profusely; she was amused (and merciful).

As of two weeks ago, McKenna and I have been dating for two years.

After Yale, a trip to Washington D.C. with the same group to cover the Atlantic 10 Tournament became a core memory of my college life. Then Freddy graduated, and a talented kid named Dean Wendel stepped in. I tried my best to mentor him, just like Joey mentored me, and I’m proud to have worked with both. The men’s basketball beat truly has been stacked for years.

Following D.C., we travelled to Brooklyn, New York for the last two years of the A-10 Tournament, bringing my count up to three, a truly privileged number. But in my final year, Dean and I finally completed the holy grail of road trips: a men’s basketball game at Tom Gola Arena. We saw the legendary pool.

The beat also led me to some of my best friends in the world. I hope the former editor-in-chief Amin Touri doesn’t read this, but I look up to him more than he could understand. What started with me calling him old, and with our connection to Arsenal Football Club, quickly became a friendship I can brag about. The same goes for señor Javier Melo, who’s an amazing friend and won’t ever know how much I appreciate him, but has terrible taste for sports teams to make up for it.

The Collegian changed my life, and I owe it everything. This newspaper gave a shy international student a home away from home. It gave me direction and happiness during a time when all I wanted to know is where I was going. It gave me a career path and a passion I want to fight for. It helped me mature tremendously from who I was as a freshman and gave me lifelong friendships. This newspaper even gave me the love of my life.

I always thought I wanted to be a sports broadcaster, and I dedicated a chunk of my time in college to that passion. Eventually, I found I also enjoyed the production side of broadcasts and had a talent for it. Multiplying my skill set was always the goal. But nothing I’ve ever done made me feel more fulfilled and accomplished than my coverage for the Collegian –– especially the feature stories I finally had time for during my final semester. The Collegian helped unearth my passion for feature and profile writing, something I hope to keep doing for years to come.

Even though the future is scary and uncertain, my time at the Collegian prepared me for what is to come.

It’s scary to leave. The uncertainty that comes with the end of this chapter terrifies me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been mentally checked out of school for almost two years now. I’ve been ready to get out there and experience the world, to grow with the skills and passions I’ve developed in the last four years. But the comfort and joy I’ve found at UMass and at the Collegian are hard to leave behind.


Pedro Gray Soares was an Assistant Sports Editor. He can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Massachusetts Daily Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *