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Chuck Haga: Student columns a high point each semester

Once again, students in the UND newswriting class impress with their personal column assignments.

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Chuck Haga is a columnist for the Grand Forks Herald.
Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald

He is a student athlete, smart and engaging, and from a distant place. We can take some pride in how he feels about his time with us here.

“UND has been a second home for me, a place where I can be myself and fully unlock my potential. This school has given me the resources to become the best version of myself and surround myself with people who want what is best for me.

“Grand Forks has a place in my heart forever.”

It is always a high point for me in the newswriting classes I teach at UND: the day students turn in their personal column. Unlike most of their other assignments, they may use their own voice and express their opinions.

Another student wrote about “the power of technology,” which “has made it indescribably fast, simple, and almost effortless” for people to find anything quickly. “Whatever happened to people working for what they wanted or needed to discover and learn about the world and the people around them?” It took time for previous generations to find what her generation “can do with the click of a button. That timely process used to be an educational journey we no longer will experience.”

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Another student told of discovering that coming to a smaller city than a metro area opens some unanticipated opportunities. “The big city is great and everything but try going to a small town up in North Dakota and you will experience a whole new level of human decency and connections that you never knew was there to begin with.”

Another student noted that long-term relationships have become more common at the university level.

“These relationships can be the ultimate tests for many couples,” she wrote. “During your college years of studying, partying, meeting new people, and attending events, your significant other might find themself jealous and controlling.”

She cited research from a recent Cornell study which found that 25% of college students consider themselves to be in some form of long-distance relationship. “The participants in this study said they had fewer conversations with their significant other, but the interactions they did have were much more meaningful, and the time spent together became more important in their relationship.”

College is a time to try new things, she said. “You're young and while you still must be responsible and maintain a steady flow, you get countless opportunities to grow and figure out what you like and what you don’t like. It is overwhelming and exciting at the same time with all the decisions and control you have. Figuring out how to navigate through college and adapt to the lifestyle is challenging for most students and dating can be especially difficult for some.”

A young man wrote about his new perspective on life after suffering injuries in a bad car crash.

“Today’s world is so fast-paced,” he wrote. “Everyone is so worried about their future goals or what’s the latest trend or a million other things that don’t really even matter. Because when your world comes to a screeching halt, you are forced to look around at the now. It’s not what you’re wearing, what possessions you have, or anything you have coming up in the future that you are going to notice or care about. It’s who is around you and who loves and cares about you.”

And there is young love.

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“People had their doubts about us, and they liked to voice them to us,” a female student wrote. “But it didn’t really bother us because we knew we had a good thing going. It just worked.

“Through trust and sacrifice we made it through the toughest year in the relationship. Now, I am 19 and he is 21. We keep ourselves busy while setting time aside for each other in the week.”

Several students wrote about mental health issues.

“I can’t remember what life was like before my eating disorder,” a young woman wrote. “I haven’t lived a day without it in over seven years. I’m only 20. For a third of my existence, I have been completely consumed by food.

“I can recite the nutrition label of every food I’ve ever eaten, and I could build a city with the amount of guilt and pity I hold onto. I stop in every mirror to lift my shirt up and evaluate my stomach. Some days I eat 500 calories and others I surpass 7,000. … I put my body through rigorous exercise late at night to feel better about the food I’ve consumed. My eating disorder sabotaged my ability to ‘just be a kid.’”

She has spoken with therapists, nutritionists, dietitians and social workers. “It’s so hard to remain hopeful and keep good spirits when I feel the same as I did when I was 13. I know this battle will not go away anytime soon. However, I also understand that each day I fight this fight is another day closer to freeing myself from my ball and chain.”

Chuck Haga had a long career at the Grand Forks Herald and the Minneapolis Star Tribune before retiring in 2013. He can be contacted at crhaga@gmail.com.

Related Topics: CHUCK HAGA
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