Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 28, 2023


Wadsten looks back at her college experience and her time with The News-Letter.

It’s hard to believe I’m currently writing my last article for The News-Letter ever. Though I have yet to walk across the stage at Commencement, this feels more like my true Hopkins finale. Yet this closing act of my studenthood hardly feels bittersweet. I can’t keep the corners of my mouth from turning up with gratitude while my fingers tap out reflections on the keyboard. Distilling a transformative, years-long college career down into one article is impossible, but I’ll do my best to wrap up a few final thoughts for posterity’s sake. 

When I very anxiously submitted my early decision application way back in 2017, I never could have guessed most of the things that would define my college career. An unprecedented global pandemic was obviously one of these surprises, but I also had never considered joining a campus newspaper nor could I have pictured myself taking time off from school. If I've learned anything, though, it’s that life is unpredictable and there's no such thing as a set path. Yet, I’m grateful for all the unexpected twists and turns my story took.

It’s practically a rite of passage to question whether attending Hopkins was a good choice. I struggled with this most when I decided to abandon my plan to major in Public Health. But didn’t you choose Hopkins because of the Public Health program? Yes, and pursuing a different major meant I was taking a risk and doing what I felt was right, even though I wasn't necessarily confident that it would be. We can never really be sure how pivoting in a new direction will go, but for an anxious, type-A planner like myself, this was a big step. Fortunately, it paid off, so I want to thank my younger self for following her gut. 

I would be remiss not to thank the many professors, teaching assistants, advisors, administrators and staff who played a role in my journey. The University’s greatest asset is employees who go above and beyond to support students and create spaces for exploring important topics and engaging in thoughtful dialogue. In particular, I want to express my appreciation to instructors who demonstrated a commitment to popping the Hopkins bubble by incorporating the city and the stories of its people into their teaching. 

I hate to admit it, but like a typical Hopkins student, I knew very little about Baltimore before I moved here. I had no clue I would develop such a strong connection to this city, but I’m grateful for its unexpected influence. Baltimore has taught me so much: It’s the first place I lived independently and the first city I’ve gotten to know so deeply, and it has come to feel like home. Thank you Baltimore, I will remember you fondly (and visit often). 

My dearest thank you of all is to The News-Letter. Perhaps it seems silly that I’m so grateful to a student organization (although I’d argue student newspapers are more of an institution), but like many new students, I struggled with how and whether I belonged at Hopkins. I didn’t picture myself as a future member of the media when I joined the paper, but the Gatehouse became my home, and I witnessed so much growth in myself and my peers in that charming stone building at the corner of Charles Street and Art Museum Drive. I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who shared in, encouraged or tolerated this chapter of my life. 

Thank you to the alumni who never romanticized working in what many considered to be a dying industry but gave me support and encouragement to believe I could pursue this as a real-life career. I'm beyond grateful to everyone on the paper’s staff who saw my potential, trusted me and supported me, and I am so proud of what we have accomplished together. Though it’s sad that my chapter at The News-Letter is ending, I know the paper is in good hands, and I can’t wait to watch the next generation of staff carry on this legacy. 

Thank you to the friends and classmates who let me badger them into writing incredibly meaningful op-eds, to all the writers whose work I had the privilege of editing and to all who read the paper. Thank you to my dad who has kept copies of all the print papers and magazines I ever worked on (which we published weekly pre-pandemic) and never questioned or tried to dissuade me when I decided that the less-than-secure career path of journalism was the one I would follow. You don't go into news for the money, which can be a bit hard to stomach when you know the sticker-price value of the education you spent the last several years pursuing. 

I wouldn’t trade any of the literal thousands of hours devoted to The News-Letter — even if stress probably took years off of the lives of Leela Gebo, Michelle Limpe, Rebecca Muratore and myself. The dramatic truth is that without the paper, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. The most explicit evidence: I had never written news or considered a career in journalism, and now I’m an investigative reporter. 

The main thing I wanted out of college (other than a degree) was to answer the elusive question: What do I want to do with my life? Thanks to the support, empowerment, mutual suffering and solidarity of many, I do feel like I got what I wanted. Though a majority of my learning was outside of the classroom, I'm not sure I would have joined a campus paper or been as involved if it weren't at Hopkins. 

If you asked a younger Laura to draw what she hoped life after graduation might look like, the picture would vaguely resemble my current reality: happily employed in D.C. with my dog. As to whether I chose the right college, thanks to my peers, professors, family, advisors and The News-Letter, I can now go on record to say the answer is yes. 

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