$20,000 and all I got was a BJ


I think we can all agree that I look damn fine in that grad cap. Not something easily accomplished. However, you’ll notice my “you’re an idiot, take the picture” smirk as well. You should have seen the first few shots.

So as of today have a Bachelor of Journalism in Journalism and Greek and Roman Studies. That’s right, I can now be “Heather Montgomery, BJ.”

I’m the only one who’s actually excited to go to graduation. This is probably entirely because up until about two weeks ago I didn’t know if it was going to happen. The last three months have been hell - Okay, honestly the last four years have been hell - but here I am. And I’m damn proud of myself so I’m going to take this chance to indulge a little and look back at what I’ve accomplished in the last four years, academically at least.

I went into Journalism for a number of reasons. I have always wanted to be a writer, it’s “my thing” - it’s what I have always done and always will do. It’s a part of me, I couldn’t stop writing anymore than I could stop breathing.

But I’m not the bravest person in the world. I tend to over think things and I’m far too logical to just decide to be a writer and live for that. I need to have something else, something more stable to fall back on. And so I applied to a number of schools and a number of different English and History programs. Journalism was my last choice on my application.

Then I got an early acceptance and a nice entrance scholarship to Carleton University’s School of Journalism. The minute I mentioned this program to anyone they were impressed. Carleton has arguably the best journalism program in the country and your high school grades have to be pretty high to get in. They also cut the class in half after first year, meaning that the 100 people with the lowest marks don’t get into the second year of the program.

So, I decided to go to Carleton for Journalism. I had dreams of being a great journalist, of changing the world like Seymour Hersch or Edward Murrow.

These dreams were very quickly crushed by the “sink or swim” style of J-School. I have to say that I have hated most of what I did for journalism, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it.

I can’t do anything half-assed, I don’t know how. And so I decided to make the most out of my journalism degree if I was going to stick it out. I worked for a media monitoring company for a year (getting up at 4am is painful), I was on staff at the weekly university newspaper for two years as a photographer and the Photo Editor. I freelanced for multiple magazines and newspapers (and got paid too!) and I got a cushy little freelance gig for University Communications. I produced a TV news show, shot, edited and wrote several TV pieces, anchored a radio show, produced a documentary and wrote countless news stories, features and sidebars. I am a decent journalist - how can I not be after four years in one of the hardest programs? It’s just that I don’t really like it.

But I’ve learned so much from it. If I look back to the person I was four years ago, I barely recognize her. That girl could never cold call the government or stand in front of a TV camera. I was shy. Painfully so. Never a public speaker, I tended to be happy to fade into the background.

Journalism forced me to step outside of that comfort zone. Perhaps that’s why I hated it so much. But it made me into a much stronger, more confident person.

It got me my museum job. A  journalism degree is proof that I can communicate - I can talk to people and convey information in a way that people actually understand. I can research - our teachers always joked that a journalist’s job was to become an expert on any subject in a matter of minutes, or at least to pretend they were.

It taught me so much about writing. Before university, I could ramble wordily with the best of them - a degree in English would have just kept me in that academic comfort zone. But journalism taught me the value of each word.  That words should be chosen carefully for the exact effect, not cheapened by overuse.  It taught me that the point of writing, of communicating, is for other people to understand. It taught me to write at a Grade 3 level, and I resented it every step of the way. But now I look at my writing and I know that I’m better for it.

The trade off for my suffering through journalism was that I declared my double major in Greek and Roman Studies. There was never any doubt in my mind that I would love my history classes. This way I got to revel in the half of my course load I loved while bearing with my journalism classes.

I’m glad I didn’t just do a degree in Classics. Now I have something that I think is more valuable and certainly more unique. I have a history degree and the ability to communicate, which is so often lacking in academia. I have a knowledge of the world and how it works - our world, not just 2000 years ago.

That being said, I’m thrilled to be done journalism and to move into what I now know I truly love - history.

And I’m graduating with High Honours, too.


  • By Faebala, June 10, 2009 @ 8:27 am

    I am so very, very proud of you, my dear. I know how hard the last four years have been for you, and I’m ecstatic that you worked your ass off to get here and it shows. I know you’ll do awesome things. And way to rock the grad cap. Amin mela lle, vanima Hezabelle.

  • By Sebastian, June 10, 2009 @ 10:24 am

    Wow, you look adorable. Far cuter than me. They insisted on pinning my hair back under the hat, and behind my ears. Is that a fake backdrop though…?

    Congratulations on graduating, and doing so with gusto — I am happy for you! I wish I’d learnt more at university, at least academically. It was a fine education into the workings of other people though, and for that I am grateful :)

  • By Eleni, June 10, 2009 @ 10:28 am

    Haha, getting a BJ may be even funnier than earning a BS (technically, I have a BSE, Bachelor of Science in Engineering).

    Hmm, maybe I should say something in Quenya, too.
    Canta yéni avánier, ar sí elen síla ancalima.

  • By Lisa, June 10, 2009 @ 12:06 pm

    You look great in your graduation photo! Congrats to you! :)

    I find your take on journalism to be really eye-opening and helpful…I am thinking about going back to school for journalism!

  • By Lea, June 10, 2009 @ 1:17 pm

    1) Your photo is dead sexy.

    2) Of course you graduated with honors, you’re fucking brilliant.

    3) Fuck yeah!

  • By Jes, June 10, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

    I’m proud of you too! And ya, way to rock the grad cap. A skill i still haven’t learned.

    I like to think that all the pain and suffering of J-School was totally worth it…and I think it’s kinda cool that we got to graduate together AGAIN haha.

    Congrats lady!!

  • By Jess, June 10, 2009 @ 5:41 pm

    Aww Hez you look AMAZING!

    /proud tear!

    Congrats on your BJ capabilities


  • By Hezabelle, June 10, 2009 @ 7:10 pm

    Yay! Thanks, all! :)

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