MEJO 121: Intro to…personal growth?

MEJO 121: Intro to Digital Storytelling is a rite of passage, as a required course in the media and journalism major at UNC. The course’s reputation is not necessarily one of rigor, but usually taken by underclassman dipping their toes into the major.

I was an outlier.

As one of the few juniors in the class, I had been introduced to the world of media and journalism in a less traditional sequence, finding myself halfway through the requirements of the major in an introductory level class. If I’m honest, I’ll say I didn’t expect much from the course. Being co-enrolled in computer science courses with titles such as Models of Languages and Computation and Algorithms and Analysis, Intro to Digital Storytelling seemed at first to be a course I wouldn’t need to pay much mind to. It’s always classes like these that surprise me. I remember the same feeling after taking an introductory writing course in the English department my freshman year.

It must be the sense of introduction that is so intriguing to me. I can sit in major classes all day, seemingly continuing my study of a subject to a level closer to mastery, and instead of feeling a sense of being closer to completing something—a degree, or complete comprehension of concept in that area of study—I feel myself pulled out of focus, and less motivated to continue on the path.  

It’s trying things that are completely new to me that excites. There is the fear of failure, there is the discomfort of confusion and of course, there is the constant comparison of intelligence to my peers and the pressure and competition of gaining understanding first. But—and there is a leading “but,” –there is the stretching of one’s general knowledge of the world.

Take MEJO 121, a new course for me. Our section of the course was taught by a PhD film student and as so, she expectantly heavily focused on sharing her knowledge of film and video production with the class. Video was something I had always had a fascination with and believed to be a very powerful media source, but was something I had no experience in. I might call it a hobby I never got into, something you always want to do but never make yourself do, until that is, your academic performance depends on it.

Although I learned a variety of things in the course involving the incorporation of digital media into modern storytelling, the video production skills I acquired in this course were the most meaningful to me. Throughout the class we learned the planning and production that goes into a simple video, as well as the audio and lighting devices that make or break videography.  I was introduced to a subject completely foreign to me and realized that there was way more to it than I ever imagined!

I had a new-found respect for videographers and editors and the film media in general. We learned editing software, and used it for multiple assignments and projects. We were challenged to put together short videos that captured different camera shots/angles. I was put in the position of filming awkwardly in a public place and asking strangers for interviews. These were all things I hadn’t done before, and probably wouldn’t have done myself. And call me cheesy but I believe I’m better from it! I have a working skill of Adobe Premiere, I have a sample video product, and I have a bit more confidence when it comes to performing tasks in public settings.  

And so, what if I never took this introductory class? What if I nudged it off as a class I had to take instead of soaking up every skill I could! I’ll tell you one thing—I probably couldn’t have edited the video lecture for the computer science professor I work for! That’s right, the skills I’ve learned have already paid off.

So, if there’s a lesson here I guess it’s to go after the introductory course every chance you get, at every stage of life! Not only will you be introduced to something new that’s important to the world, but you’ll probably be able to use the things you learn in other areas of your life. While the course may have been about incorporating difference digital media in storytelling, it was so much more for me—I gained many new skills to incorporate in my life.

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