Freshman orientation was mediocre. I learned a lot about Temple University, but I didn’t make any friends in my group and I was still “finding out” what being on a college campus was like. Somewhat skeptical, I wasn’t sure how or where I would fit in, but I was still excited to be here.
So, at the end of the two-day event when Convocation arrived, a formal ceremony welcoming students to Temple, I sat in the front row of Mitten Hall alone. Everyone else was rows behind in cliques, and I thought I’d be by myself for the entirety of the grand event.
That was until a short, bubbly, red-haired girl came and sat beside me.
She told me she was glad to find someone else who wanted to sit in the best seats in the house. My thoughts exactly, I recall thinking. This was the first inviting conversation I had with a peer on campus. At the end of the event, we were the only incoming freshmen to jump up on stage and introduce ourselves to Lew Klein, the namesake of our college, the year before he’d pass.
I don’t remember if she and I had a conversation about staying in touch after that. It didn’t matter, though, because that same red-haired girl ran in late to The Temple News newsroom during the first week of classes for the first Features section pitching meeting. Somehow, I remembered her name too: Bibi Correa.
We sat around the conference table, excited to already know a familiar face, and picked up our first stories for the paper. In the coming months, we’d share about our lives at that table weekly, pitching as beat reporters for the section. She’d come in with ideas about students watching Game of Thrones and doing the keto diet, while I’d write about neuroscience studies and professors buying mountains.
At the end of freshman year, I’d run into her at Cosí and ask, “Are you applying for Features editor positions next year?” The answer was clear, and I’d be calling her from my driveway back home in the summer to plan stories when we were both hired to staff for sophomore year.
That fall, we’d produce special editions of the paper, take a road trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to report a story about a 106-year-old alumna and learn how to become newspaper editors together. I cherish that time learning how to depend on each other during late newsroom nights because we had to start communicating over Zoom multiple times a week when the pandemic began.
Still, Bibi was my right hand in navigating the onset of the crisis, as she’d help lead when I fell sick last spring, and we’d continue covering stories online when The Temple News stopped printing.
A few weeks from the end of last year, I’d ask Bibi if she was applying to staff the following year. I was applying for editor-in-chief and wanted to keep working with her. Soon after, I hired her as managing editor, and I was calling her again in the summer from home planning for another year at the paper.
Now, after a year of figuring out how to start printing the paper again and covering Temple remotely and in person, here we are, at the end of the year for the third time and I’m asking her, “How are we going to stay in touch our senior year on campus when we’re both not in the newsroom?”
But it won’t be hard. We’ve been through and through, beginning college together, celebrating our 21st birthdays together in the newsroom — yes, we’re born on the same day — and keeping a student newspaper running in its 99th year during a pandemic.
Bibi: in and out of the publications we’ve produced together, thank you for being my first college friend, my managing editor and my right hand. I don’t think I’ve ever relied on anyone more than you.