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Senior Spotlight: An Orionite’s farewell to Chico State

Nicole Santos

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Nicole Santos says farewell to her last four years at Chico State. Photo courtesy of Annie Page

It feels like just yesterday I was moving into my dorm in Sutter Hall. Now I’m decorating my cap for the commencement ceremony on Saturday.

This semester, I interviewed 18 diverse seniors for my column and wrote about their experiences at Chico State, postgraduation plans and passions.

Now it’s my turn.

Choosing to attend Chico State was one of the best decisions I’ve made.

I chose Chico not only because the university had the major I wanted to pursue, but also because of the variety of student organizations one can join.

There were three organizations in particular that not only shaped my college experience and myself for the better, but also kept me sane during the past four years.

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Nicole Santos won her first Orion mug as the editor of the Arts & Entertainment section in 2013. Photo courtesy of Nicole Santos

The Orion

I joined our campus’ award-winning student newspaper as a sophomore back in 2013. Since then, I’ve written and worked on various sections, including opinion, features and arts & entertainment.

I’ve been a staff writer, columnist and editor. These three positions taught me the meaning of teamwork and deadlines.

I got to put the skills I learned in my journalism courses to work every time I produced an article.

This opportunity to apply what I learned in the classroom to my future career is something I will always thank the “O” for.

Also, if I didn’t work for The Orion, I definitely wouldn’t have been as educated about our campus and the Chico community.

One of my favorite semesters on The Orion was working as the arts & entertainment editor in the spring of 2014. As someone who is active in various forms of art, I was ecstatic when given the opportunity to bring the section back to life. When I was editor, the section was only published online. To see it in print today is really rewarding.

My most memorable moment was earning my first Orion mug, which I associate with a Golden Globe. No, I’m not joking. Ever since I learned about the coveted “Orion mug,” I knew from that day forward it was my goal to earn one before graduating. It’s awarded every Wednesday to the person that goes above and beyond regular expectations.

I’m thankful to say I’ve earned two in my time here.

I earned my first mug as the arts editor for reviving the arts section, adding more multimedia to my section’s stories and making the calendar helpful and easy-to-use.

My second mug was awarded this past semester during a week when there was “lots of good writing.” My story about a student cancer research scientist was considered the “best of” and “a classic feature story.”

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Nicole Santos and her Momentum dance team performed a piece inspired by the group Jabbawockeez. Photo courtesy of Nicole Santos

Momentum Choreography Collective

I joined Momentum my freshman year and have danced in the club for six semesters.

I’ve gained a lot of confidence through performing in Momentum, and I’ve been able to unleash a whole new side of myself by dancing in various hip-hop pieces throughout the years.

My first official Momentum performance was to LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It.” I strutted on the stage with 20 other dancers in cheetah leggings, a purple tank with a highlighter yellow sports bra, a sparkly teal headband in my hair and a fanny pack around my waist.

From that point on, I was sold. I knew I had found a new home and family at Chico State.

Each week, rehearsals became my creative outlet and release from school.

One of the best aspects of the club is that it’s entirely student run. This gave me the opportunity to not only perform as a hip-hop dancer but to become a choreographer and even sit on the board of directors as secretary.

I’ve been fortunate enough to choreograph three hip-hop pieces, including a ’90s throwback, an all girls “Divas” number and a Jabbawockeez-inspired piece.

This club gave me the opportunity to watch my dance visions come alive each week in rehearsals, working up to actually hitting the stage and performing at our spring and fall showcases at the end of each semester.

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Nicole Santos studied abroad for one semester in Viterbo, Italy, during the first semester of her senior year. Photo courtesy of Nicole Santos.

Team Study Abroad

I spent fall 2014 studying abroad in Viterbo, Italy, and that experience in itself deserves its own article.

It was the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, and that’s not an exaggeration.

I learned how to cook authentic Italian cuisine in a restaurant that hadn’t even opened to the public. I traveled to various Italian cities taking photos of wondrous gardens and sights one wouldn’t expect existed. I visited various lakes and oceans. I volunteered as a writer for Viterbo’s online magazine Tuscia Times. And all of those experiences came from the courses that I took, not the traveling aspect.

On top of that, I was fortunate enough to visit seven countries in the span of the four months I lived in Italy including: Germany, the Czech Republic and France.

Let’s just say the wanderlust is strong with this one.

I knew when I returned home that I was going to need a way to stay connected to the experience, so I inquired about internships in the Study Abroad office. In my last couple of weeks abroad, I participated in my first Skype interview for a possible internship.

This past semester, I’ve worked as both the communications and public relations intern and as a marketing and recruitment intern for the Study Abroad office. It has been the perfect outlet for me to talk about my experience with other alumni and encourage students to go learn in a foreign country.

Studying abroad is truly indescribable, and one day I hope to become a travel writer and photographer documenting my experiences all over the world.

These are three reasons why I’m not ready to leave Chico State, but they have truly set me up for life after graduation.

With my cap and gown resting in my closet, and cords and sashes waiting to be adorned on Saturday, I can happily say that I’m not just saying goodbye to my college town – I’m saying goodbye to my home.

There are many aspects of Chico that I will miss, including living with Katelyn Pipkin, who has been my roommate since freshman year, and having my best friend, Terry Bunn from back home, attend the same college.

In June, I will begin my paid summer internship with The Fresno Bee, and I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the journalism department and all the experiences I gained at Chico.

I’m so excited for what my future holds as a journalist from this point forward.

I can’t thank Chico State enough for the education I received, the lessons I learned, the accomplishments I achieved and the memories I made with friends who became family.

My advice to current and future Wildcats?

Take advantage of the amazing opportunities Chico State offers for students to get involved. You never know where these opportunities will lead you, and you will meet some of the most inspiring people.

Make Chico State your home. Because you won’t believe how fast four years flies by.

I’m damn proud to be a Wildcat and soon-to-be alumna of Chico State.

Nicole Santos can be reached at [email protected] or @Iam_NicoleS on Twitter.

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Senior Spotlight: An Orionite’s farewell to Chico State