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I cultivated confidence, community and countless memories at the Daily Bruin -30-

Christine Kao stands for a portrait. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

By Christine Kao

June 11, 2023 9:55 p.m.

A white fluff ball stood on top of the table in front of a 100-person lecture hall.

I saw her on the first day of media training. To this day, nothing beats the first time I saw Suzy AlbinoBruin, the Goldendoodle daughter of our editorial advisor Abigail Goldman.

What I hadn’t anticipated, however, were the many adventurous and heartfelt memories that would come close to that moment. Alongside all the memories bestowed upon me, I found confidence and community as part of this paper.

Unlike most staffers who are still on board, my time at The Bruin started before the pandemic. When I joined the paper, I had just graduated from a high school with only 18 classmates who were teammates in the same sports and participants in the same clubs as me. I hadn’t had the chance to branch out – and the concept of student journalism was far from familiar to me. But when I finally began establishing new relationships with the various people and places in this city by covering events for the paper, the world went into lockdown.

I came back after the pandemic to find more than just a newly renovated office and the hundreds of plants it houses. A new puppy, Oliver, joined us after our other office dog, Scott, died. The editors who hired me had either graduated or were finishing their last year of college.

While the new setting was hard to adjust to, it also launched a fresh start for me. I cross-trained into other sections to write for News, Arts and PRIME, rekindling my childhood love of writing, which I had suppressed when I entered a primarily English environment as a non-native speaker. Being able to delineate deeper narratives for my photos made me feel more in place as a journalist, an assurance that motivated me to also pitch my own passion projects down the line.

I learned that journalism, while striving for objectivity, comes from a place of care, and when executed genuinely, can bring immense warmth.

When I visited my grandma a few weeks before graduation, she said I looked a lot more comfortable with myself than I was as a freshman. At that moment, the newsroom – where people sit at the long table laughing together – flashed through my mind.

I know exactly that the growth came from Kerckhoff 118, where I’m surrounded by people who uplift each other and support my ambition while helping me to improve.

I might eventually forget about the out-of-focus shots that I was eager to erase from my memory card at each photoshoot, but what I will remember is the same bagel that I ordered every day in North Carolina, where I captured the women’s soccer team clinching their national title. I will remember the burrito from the Folsom Field media room, which prompted my fellow photographer Anya Yakimenko to say, “This is touchdown,” at first bite, as well as the underwhelming hot dogs that former Assistant Photo Editor Sakshi Joglekar and I snatched way too excitedly at the Rose Bowl Stadium media room. I will remember the McDonald’s that Arts Editor Alexis Jones and I drove past – only to immediately turn around for – before we covered King Princess’ concert.

I will remember practicing using a light stand with Digital Managing Editor David Rimer past midnight before a portrait shoot that made PRIME’s cover. I will remember getting coffee with Editor in Chief Victoria Ke Li and Assistant Photo Editor Megan Cai every morning before the Asian American Journalists Association conference, where I found my first journalism job. I will remember Managing Editor Olivia Simons putting an onion ring on my finger at Denny’s. I will remember riding in former News Editor Anushka Chakrabarti’s car to the closest auto repair when her tire flattened while driving us back from a protest.

I will remember the fortune cookie incoming Arts Editor Talia Sajor gifted me only after I asked fifty times, which rightfully predicted, “Your difficult path will be rewarding.” I will remember the comforting cuddles that Podcasts Editor Kyle Kotenchek gave and his fisherman hat that I wear better. I will remember the orange rose that a merchant at The Original Los Angeles Flower Market handed me after I interviewed him for my first solo photo gallery.

I will remember incoming Photo Editor Joseph Jimenez squeezing every photographer’s face, repeating, “I’m so proud of you,” at last year’s banquet. I will remember former Photo Editor Ashley Kenney telling me I’m a light in the office and to this world, which I jotted down in my phone, definitely not while sobbing. I will remember meeting my intern class on former Digital Managing Editor Liz Ketcham’s rooftop, where everyone wore flannels. Thank you to the photo editors who took me in – Liz, Kanishka Mehra, Niveda Tennety and Tanmay Shankar – for seeing more in me than I did at the time.

And lastly, I will remember Suzy’s warm hugs that accompanied me through the stressful days of college.

I’m ready to take away with me the photojournalism skills that connect me with the world’s stories, as well as the memories that hold me tight and a sense of belonging in the field of journalism. Thank you and see you later, Daily Bruin.

Kao was a Photo contributor in 2019, a Photo staffer 2020-2023 and a News, Arts and PRIME contributor 2022-2023.

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Christine Kao | Photographer
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