It started my freshman year, and as luck would have it, it was all because of a friend. Interestingly enough, my writing career with The Daily Athenaeum began because I made a point to read it.

An older friend of mine had dabbled in opinion writing for the publication, and I became a fan of her work. I enjoyed the intelligent way she crafted her arguments on everything from gendered double standards to the need to do away with tipping in bars. Each week, I’d look for her columns and text her compliments, and after a short time, her talent for writing opinion pieces turned into an editor’s position.

Not long after, I was offered the opportunity to write a try-out piece and subsequently a writing position for the Opinion section.

I’d written for my high school newspaper before and had always been told I had a knack for it, but writing for a college publication was an entirely different ballgame. To a freshman with very little experience, it was downright intimidating. Unlike a high school paper that was circulated once a week or so and was never published online, The DA pumped out a first-rate edition every single day. People shared its articles on Facebook and debated hot topics in the comments. Respected professors and administrators frequently began their days on campus by picking up copies.

I wrote my first few columns so carefully that they scarcely adhered to a style that couldn’t be found in a generic writing textbook. I filled them with so many facts and statistics from credible sources that there was hardly any room left within the confines of 600-800 words to incorporate my original thoughts. I paid attention to every comment and became extremely disheartened at criticism, especially when readers pointed out my obvious lack of experience.

Getting better was going to involve more on my part than meticulous research of my topic and a couple of hours writing about it. I compared every original, unedited piece with the column that was published. I asked for feedback from my most intelligent friends and family and, more importantly, my editor. I allowed myself to take risks and make mistakes, and before long, I began to develop my own voice.

After four years of saving every single column I submitted, it’s truly rewarding to see how far I’ve come. As much as some may find the printed newspaper and its confines to be outdated, I couldn’t imagine growing as a writer in the same way without the structure of The DA.

In an age where listicles have become the norm and anyone has the ability to publish on the Internet, the hardworking staff who edited my columns and read through them with a fine-toothed comb taught me the importance of journalistic integrity. The wonderful editors I have worked under have helped me to incorporate my own style with the truth.

It is with these lessons I’ve found that while online publications like Buzzfeed and The Odyssey may explode in popularity on social media, the printed word will not truly die out. It will live on as long as there are writers who remain true to its principles and readers who seek out such truth.

As I reflect on four years at West Virginia University as a whole, I realize how truly proud I am to have been a part of The DA. For everything it has given me and everything it has allowed me to give to others on my campus and in my state, I remain forever grateful.