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The Daily Bruin helped me embrace my strengths, find purpose in service -30-

Victoria Li stands for a portrait. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

By Victoria Ke Li

June 11, 2023 9:37 p.m.

One time, when I was calling my mom, she recounted the surprise she was met with after telling the aunties at our local church that I became editor in chief of my school’s newspaper. My mom described how I gave a speech and answered questions in front of more than 100 people for an hour, to which their eyes widened in shock.

“Victoria did what? But she barely spoke!” one of them said.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not the most talkative. In high school, I cried from the anxiety of participating in any sort of public speaking activity, on multiple occasions. I wanted to be more outgoing in college, so I applied to a whole host of pre-med clubs – I was rejected from nearly every single one.

In hindsight, the gnawing unease I felt going into each interview should’ve been an indicator that I wasn’t doing something I loved. I didn’t know what to say, and I don’t like to say things unless I really believe them. I wanted to change but felt like a failure.

Flash forward to March 2020, when most of us left campus behind. Hospital volunteering shut down, in-person research paused and I sat at home with nothing to do. I applied to the Daily Bruin on a whim because I knew some people in it and I thought I was an OK writer.

But everything seemed to fall into place once I wrote my first article. There was a sense of purpose I had writing for the science and health beat of News that I didn’t get from my classes, especially reporting on a pandemic when nothing seemed to make much sense. Rather than being the loudest voice in the room, I enjoyed listening and amplifying the voices of others.

Discussing articles with writers and interacting with people from different sections wasn’t intimidating. It became something I looked forward to every day on my way to Kerckhoff 118.

(Courtesy of Anushka Chakrabarti)
Li (second from left) and News writers at assignment desk. (Courtesy of Anushka Chakrabarti)

The transition from an assistant News editor to upper management was a rough start to an even rougher year. At the same time as we were all working intensely on Graduation Issue – our first big task leading the new batch of editors – I contracted COVID-19 and also somehow managed to sprain my ankle in isolation.

In all honesty, there were moments this past year where I did not see myself finishing my year out at the paper or in college entirely. This job was hard, and balancing everything seemed impossible sometimes. But I’m someone who dislikes focusing too much on the negative, no matter how irrational that might seem. The reality is that taking on a big leadership role, especially while you’re still a full-time student, can be a seemingly irrational choice.

The only regret I have is not being more honest with myself and those around me when I was struggling mentally. There is no shame in admitting that it all just becomes too much sometimes. I’m glad we are recognizing that breaks are necessary and OK. Do not let momentary embarrassment get in the way of doing what you’re good at and love. Ask for help and keep in touch with your non-Daily Bruin friends too.

But that’s enough about me. To all the writers I worked with – Andrew, Caroline, Leila, Noah and more – thank you for tolerating me as your editor. Your passion was infectious, and seeing you all at beat meetings was often the highlight of my week. To Eva, I’ll miss walking to class with you, but text me if you ever need help finding your way through the labyrinthine Center for Health Sciences.

To Aditi and Anna, I’m so proud of everything you two have accomplished. I couldn’t be happier that you two took the helm for science and health, steering it in a more clever and engaging direction. You made this one-of-a-kind beat at The Bruin even more special.

(Lex Wang/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Li, Aditi Kumar and Anna Dai-Liu stand on the grass at Janss Steps. (Lex Wang/Daily Bruin senior staff)

To Anushka, Maanas, Justin, Constanza and Shaanth, the news team: You taught me everything I know. News will always be my home. I’ll never forget the absolute joy and delirium of that 2 a.m. meeting in Christine’s apartment lounge, which definitely altered my brain chemistry.

(David Rimer/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Members of 2021-2022 News team including Li (bottom right) stand on a roof. (David Rimer/Daily Bruin senior staff)

To Christine, I’m glad I initiated this friendship by stalking you – or rather, being a good investigative journalist – and finding out we both liked the same K-pop group. Even though we’ve only known each other for two years, I’ve made a lifelong friend in you. You inspire me to be a better person. We have to end up in the same city for graduate school so we can finally write that screenplay.

(Victoria Ke Li/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Christine Tran and Li stand in front of the Daily Bruin office. (Victoria Ke Li/Daily Bruin senior staff)

To Genesis, Cecile and Shirley, I was honestly quite scared of you three when I first became an editor. But you have taught me so much about what it means to be a leader while also becoming some of my closest friends. I don’t think I’ve been thankful enough.

(Ashley Kenney/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Cecile Wu, Genesis Qu, Shirley Yao, Li and Emily Dembinski sit at a table. (Ashley Kenney/Daily Bruin senior staff)

To Abbe and Doria, I am endlessly grateful for your unwavering guidance and support. You two have been my sources of sanity in the most stressful, weird and unprecedented times. Anyone who can put up with a bunch of 20-somethings trying to run an entire newspaper year after year deserves the biggest award out there.

To David and Olivia, where do I even begin? You were the first two editors I hired, and I was so nervous. Thank you for believing in me, even if I sometimes didn’t do much to deserve it. But most of all, thank you for applying to be where you are now and offering your abilities, determination and warmth to this paper. Olivia, we would all be lost without your meticulous note-taking at every meeting. I know you’ll do amazing next year. David, you have been a source of strength for me and so many others. I hope there’s good espresso and camera gear in Northern Ireland.

And finally, to every other person in the office that I’ve shared a conversation or dumb joke with, especially the Barney’s gang – thank you. You’ve all made my day at one point or another.

(Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)
Olivia Simons, Li and David Rimer kneel next to a Starship food delivery robot. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

Trying to condense thousands of hours of time spent on The Bruin into one column was daunting at first. I didn’t know what era or set of events to focus on, so I’ll simply end with what first-year, club-reject Victoria should’ve heard.

Working at The Bruin has taught me to think critically and be human. I’ve also learned how to stand my ground and believe in myself. Admittedly, I’m still someone who gets pretty nervous going into interviews. But nowadays, it’s only because I care about and like what I do.

I’m grateful that one club thought I might be able to write decently and that it made me who I am today. Three years later, this newspaper is all I can talk about.

Li was a News contributor 2020-2021, assistant News editor 2021-2022 and editor in chief 2022-2023.

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Victoria Ke Li | Editor in chief
Li is the 2022-2023 editor in chief. She was previously the 2021-2022 assistant News editor on the Science and Health beat and a contributor for News, Illustrations, Design and Photo. They are also a fourth-year human biology and society student from San Diego, CA minoring in public health and professional writing.
Li is the 2022-2023 editor in chief. She was previously the 2021-2022 assistant News editor on the Science and Health beat and a contributor for News, Illustrations, Design and Photo. They are also a fourth-year human biology and society student from San Diego, CA minoring in public health and professional writing.
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