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The ‘break-the-ice’ college experience

Chris Masoud | Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Writing the final words of my career as a student writer should probably be a bit harder than this. Reflecting on four years of friendships, accomplishments, failures and laughs should take at least a full day of sitting in my room, before composing an eloquent farewell worthy of the independent newspaper serving Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s.
Thankfully, the good people at Hallmark do a better job than I ever could putting together cliché goodbyes.
So instead of a farewell column to The Observer, I’m opting for a farewell to columns.
The first column I ever wrote appeared in the Sept. 16, 2009 issue of The Observer. For 474 words, I ripped the Career Fair as a four-hour track race dressed up as a networking event to give employers and students a sense of entitlement. After attending the Career Fair four consecutive years, I can say that’s largely untrue.
But in my first foray in column writing, I wanted to get my name out there for something edgy. Like much of my first two years at The Observer, I figured sacrificing integrity for a sensational topic would pay dividends. Needless to say it didn’t work, and I remained a low-level sports writer with a peeve against people finding jobs.
The turning point came exactly one year later when I reached rock bottom after writing a piece titled “Section 32.” What started as an attempt to call out the student section during football games turned into a perceived endorsement of violence in the stands and a personal PR disaster. After more than a few calls for my resignation and some serious damage control from my editors, I finally put my head down and prioritized The Observer in my life.
During those first two-and-a-half years, I most certainly set the record for the “Can you please stop by the office to talk?” unofficial disciplinary meetings.
I pushed my editors to the brink with my writing, downright disrespected them in conversation and really showed no desire to improve. As a business major without an inkling for a career in journalism, I mistook The Observer as a pastime instead of the opportunity to take on a unique responsibility unlike any other offered at Notre Dame.
But I wouldn’t have changed the trajectory of my career path from layout artist to assistant managing editor in the slightest.
My public humbling and private disciplining were essential to my development at The Observer and Notre Dame. Taking the raw person who thought he was more talented than he really was and turning him into a writer, student and leader who actually turned out better than he thought possible has been The Observer’s greatest contribution on my life.
For that, I thank all the editor-in-chiefs, managing editors, assistant managing editors and sports editors who suffered through my growing pains so that I might at least see the potential I could reach.
That brings me to perhaps my favorite column, the championship column following the 2010 women’s soccer team victory over Stanford in the NCAA College Cup. In addition to providing my profile picture for the next 17 months, the experience was everything I now miss in my post-Observer life – sharing moments with people who endured the same journey as you did. Sure, I had to let this particular moment soak in longer than the others, but writing in a McDonald’s tollway oasis before uploading pictures on a smart phone tethering the Internet while driving at 2 a.m. is something my colleagues and I won’t forget anytime soon. That, and proofreading a 24-page paper at 3 a.m. in the basement of a cafeteria.
And although I’m relegated to reliving memories through a farewell to columns, which has inevitably turned into a farewell column, The Observer will be for me what it has been to privileged editors before and will be to naïve ones in the future – the break-the-ice college experience you never run out of words to describe.

Chris Masoud will be graduating with a degree in Finance and Economics and will begin working at Centerview Partners in July. He will miss the smell of freshly-printed newspapers in the morning and poking fun at Dodgers fans. He can be reached at cmasoud@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not
necessarily those of The Observer.