‘You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here’

By Robyn Rudish-Laning | Editor-in-Chief

When I first got involved at The Duke almost four years ago, I came hesitantly. I didn’t think I’d fit in, I didn’t know anyone at all and I had no idea what I was doing.

Actually, my first semester at The Duke was a lot like my first year at Duquesne.

I chose Duquesne two weeks before the May 1 deadline in 2008. I was a graduating senior from a village in Southern New Jersey – yes, a village – and in the midst of the excitement of picking a college, I forgot that Duquesne was 330 miles from home and that I had never been away from my family for more than a couple of days.

I chose Duquesne and Pittsburgh and, later on, The Duke, because somewhere in the first hour of being there, something just clicked. Subconsciously, from somewhere deep and unknown, a little voice whispered, “You belong here.” In that fleeting moment, I was Alice falling down a rabbit hole of my own.

In my final semester, as I’ve come to the realization that I am (finally) nearing the end of my academic career, 20 years in the making, I’ve been reflecting on why Pittsburgh, why Duquesne, why journalism and why I’ve made a lot of the choices I’ve made.

No, this isn’t some deep introspective look at all the mistakes and choices I’ve made and how they’ve made me, me. I’m not going to begin to dote on all the big life events thus far in my life.

In reality, I’m 23. I may have done a lot of really cool things but there’s still a lot left to do. Waxing philosophical? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I’ve been here at Duquesne for five years and when I walk off my campus on May 4 for the last time, I won’t be walking away empty-handed. Two degrees, a multitude of lessons and experiences, and more memories than I can count will leave with me.

On my journey to a Master’s Degree, I’ve made a lot of great friends, covered a lot of exciting things, made my voice heard on issues that matter to me, learned many lessons, been to cool places and met and worked with a lot of great people. There’s a common thread that runs through all of these things that I remember most fondly: no matter the choice, the place or the time, I was entirely uncertain about what I was doing.

Walking into The Duke’s newsroom for the first month or so was like walking into the wrong dorm room because you weren’t paying attention – shocking, new and confusing. I knew no one, had nearly nothing in common with anyone and was only there because of the persistence of my Newswriting 1 teacher who asked me every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon if I had gone down to The Duke yet.

Over time as the location of the newsroom changed, the fourth floor of the old Des Places Hall and, later, the first floors of both Fisher and College Halls, became as comfortable to me as my own home. The stumbling uncertainty gave way to calm familiarity and, like those who came before me, I settled into my place.

We are a family. Like sororities and fraternities make up brother- and sisterhoods that last a lifetime, we do as well. We are dysfunctional at times and maybe we more closely resemble the Island of Misfit Toys than a single, cohesive unit, but we are what we are. And ultimately, we are the faces behind the names in print each week and the cast of characters keeping the lights on ‘til all hours of the morning every Wednesday night.

I’ve worked a variety of places – from a bar, to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, to an after-school program for kids, to a small memorial museum in New York City, to a pharmaceutical research company, but, by far and without a doubt, the most rewarding place I’ve worked thus far has been The Duke.

The value of being a team player and hard work is magnified at a small newspaper. For most of this year, our core staff consisted of a group of seven of us who worked tirelessly every single week to make sure we were not only doing well, but doing good, too. Every week, without fail, The Duke has been available for students, full of a week’s worth of hard work. We’ve been rewarded with awards and praise, and our fair share of criticism, too, but there’s no greater reward than seeing our names accompanied by the pieces we’ve poured our hearts and souls into.

As I’ve poured my heart and soul into The Duke, I’ve been rewarded a million times over with a staff that meets and often exceeds my expectations, the ability to teach students the things I love most and the good fortune to be able to do what I love.  But all good things must come to an end.

To quote the Red King from Alice in Wonderland, “Begin at the beginning and go on ‘til you come to the end: then stop.”

I am the end of the old guard here at The Duke, one of the final graduates of a gang that met in a now-demolished building.   I’ve reached my end after four years of the most frustrating, agonizing, time-consuming and rewarding work that I have ever known. As I am the end of the old, in comes the new. For The Duke, that means a new website and new ways of reporting the news, ways that open limitless opportunities for the next staff to embrace. I can only hope that I’ve made those before me as proud as I know the ones I’ve taught will make me.

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Robyn Rudish-Laning is a graduate media practices student and can be reached at rudishlaningr@duq.edu.