It’s not about the job, it’s about the experience

At Ink Bowl practices and Friday meetings, I remember trying to defend the Kings’ horrible draft choices, getting called Sergio Aguero when I came back with my hair platinum blonde and just sharing laughs with everyone in the sports department.

I’ll never forget walking into Northside Cafe and standing awkwardly in the corner, nervously waiting for my interview with The Daily Californian. I leaned up against a wall, a wall that I didn’t even know had the Daily Cal right on the other side. I scanned the room for someone older than me, sitting there with a bunch of papers in a nice suit or something. Then I remembered — it’s a student newspaper.

I think Josh noticed me just looking around awkwardly, standing in the cafe without even ordering anything, and realized I was the guy he was interviewing that day. Little did I know that this interview would change my UC Berkeley experience completely.

Women’s golf. Right off the bat, I was thrilled at the opportunity to cover a sport in my first semester, even if I knew little about golf and, if I’m being entirely honest, it’s probably the sport that I’m the worst at. But the experiences that came with covering that team were amazing.

My first semester at UC Berkeley was perhaps my favorite, as I was in a new city for the first time and had what felt like all the freedom in the world. I remember going to the football games for the first time and feeling the environment that I had been wanting to experience for years. I was one of the students in the student section at a football game for a Power Five conference school. It was fun as hell.

I didn’t think I could top that when it came to my college sports fix, but I was wrong — seeing the inside of California Memorial Stadium and all of the coaches’ offices for the first time when I went to interview women’s golf head coach Nancy McDaniel was something else.

But that wasn’t it for me at Memorial Stadium, as I was lucky enough to cover lacrosse in the spring semester, which means I got what tons of sports fans dream of — an entire press box with a huge glass window overlooking a college football stadium all to myself, with live sports to watch on the field below.

I felt the thrill of being a sports reporter for the first time while covering lacrosse. I was doing postgame interviews in person and waiting in the player tunnel after the game, and I knew the head coach on a first-name basis. Even though I wasn’t covering one of the school’s most popular sports, I felt like I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing.

But in that first year at the Daily Cal, I also made some of my best friends at UC Berkeley. For junior transfers, it’s sometimes harder to find people to socialize with because it seems like everyone else already has their group of friends, but the sports department welcomed me with open arms.

At Ink Bowl practices and Friday meetings, I remember trying to defend the Kings’ horrible draft choices, getting called Sergio Aguero when I came back with my hair platinum blonde and just sharing laughs with everyone in the sports department. I couldn’t get enough. I wanted to hang out with these people more and become more involved in the organization, so I applied to be an assistant sports editor for the fall semester of my senior year.

I got the position and was thrilled when I realized I’d be working with Jasper and Spencer, two of my good friends who were hired during the same semester as I was. And this was when things really went to the next level.

Being in the office every single day sounds like a chore to most people, but it was seriously the most fun work environment I’ve ever experienced. I became close with people from other departments and even ended up contributing to the photo and design departments (not really, but real ones know).

Hanging out with Spencer and Jasper every day and seeing people come in and out of the office, with our regulars such as Justice and Josh always there, was the best part of becoming assistant editor. It was even better than having press passes to college basketball games, going to the Chase Center and interviewing former NBA All-Star Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

And throughout this two-year experience, the main thing that I’ve learned is to pursue your interests because you never know what will come from it. I joined the Daily Cal to improve my resume, write about sports and eventually cover basketball (which I did), but ultimately, the friendships and memories I gained were just as valuable as the job experience.

You never know what’s in store for you when you do what you’ve set your mind on. Whether you accomplish your goal or not, there will always be something of value that comes along the way, and often, it’s not even what you thought you were seeking.

I never knew I’d be coming out of the Daily Cal with close friends and experiences like the ones I have. I’ll never get over how cool it is to walk around Haas Pavilion with a press pass and get to ask the head coach and players questions in postgame press conferences.

The Daily Cal became my home in Berkeley, more than my dorm room in Unit 3 and more than my shared room off of Telegraph Avenue. I’ll always look at that office and think of it as the biggest part of my journey at UC Berkeley, as I went from standing awkwardly in the corner of a cafe to basically living in the office right next door.

Jack Whaley joined The Daily Californian in fall 2018 as a sports reporter, becoming a women’s golf beat reporter. He was a lacrosse beat reporter in spring 2019, field hockey beat reporter in fall 2019, men’s basketball beat reporter in winter 2019-20 and assistant sports editor in fall 2019. He is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in sociology.