The Student Union Begins Another New Year

Doug Bernard | Washington DC

Pile of Books
Why shouldn't I be able to juggle all this?

For every one of you who are still not quite moved into your new housing for the year, I feel your pain. Anyone who is frantically hunting for that packed-away book or trying to figure out where to put everything in your dorm room, I'm right there with you. And for every single one of you spending your days trying to remember new names and faces, and learning new routines and lessons, you're not alone.

That's because after three amazing years, the VOA Student Union has a new editor, and that's me.

I'm Doug Bernard, a broadcast and web journalist here at the Voice of America, and today is my first day working with all of you at the Student Union. Jessica Stahl, who many of you have worked with and come to know over the last few years, has left VOA to pursue new career opportunities with one of the most prestigious media organizations in the world, the Washington Post.

Think of it like this: Jessica has graduated and left the campus, so I'm your new R.A.

Which means I'm probably a lot more nervous about this than you.

Jessica was both talented and a lot of fun to work with, as many of you learned. So yeah, I'm a little anxious about how I'm going to measure up. But then again, I guess some of you might be feeling the same way at your schools.

The most important thing to say right at the top is that this blog and everything you all have built here is most definitely not going away. In fact, we're sort of hoping to broaden out what we do - video chats, Skype debates, photo contests and short video stories you shoot and edit yourselves are just part of the mix.

And, of course, we're going to keep doing what we do best: finding international students studying in the U.S. so they can share their stories with all of us. Which brings me to my first request as you new R.A. editor - come write for us!

In addition to those of you who wrote for us last year and want to keep contributing, we're recruiting a whole new team of international students from all across the U.S. to share their thoughts, experiences and advice with the many of you who come hang out here. It's not a big time commitment - unless you want it to be! - but what I've learned in just the last few days is that it's something that's really satisfying. Not only do you get to share your stories with the rest of the world, but you'll join together with the other writers and our many, many readers in a unique club: the international student.

In her last post here at the Student Union, Jessica wrote:

"Few people are braver and more tenacious than an international student. You kind of have to be to decide you want to move to a new country with a new culture and language, no less to actually do it and thrive there. So be brave in reaching out to those who can help you, and be tenacious in taking advantage of everything that?s already out there to help you help yourself."

Dorm room at Vassar College, by Emily.laurel504
Empty, but not for much longer!

I wouldn't try to put it differently: you're an amazing group with many things to learn and even more to teach, so we want to hear from you! So whether you're a returning writer or new to our site, please take a moment and email me your interest in joining the 2013-14 Student Union. It doesn't have to be long, and certainly not formal; introduce yourself a little and tell me about your school, your home country, what interests you and good ways to reach you.

In the end, I'm looking at the next year much like you: a lot excited by all the new things ahead and a little worried at the same time. We're all stepping into new roles and situations, and if you're anything like me you might be feeling a little lonely at times. But that doesn't compare to how eagerly I'm looking forward to getting starting and meeting a whole new group of people.

So email me as soon as you can find your laptop. I may not be as good an R.A. as Jessica, but I promise this new year is going to be a lot of fun!