The First Reporting Assignment for this Student Journalist Was a Lulu

Syeda Islam, 20, a psychology major and junior who commutes from the Bronx by subway four days a week to attend classes, says the start of a semester is always a challenge. “The first two weeks of class are always a load of work. It’s a lot of running around and trying to get everything together,” says Islam, wearing a blue head-wrap, a gray sweater, blue jeans and a button-down shirt  as she is being interviewed on the sky bridge between the North and West buildings where she was interviewed.

Syeda Islam. Picture by Taylor Stanich.

The classes she wanted filled up before she could register, she says. “It was really frustrating.”

Besides her studies, she works a part-time job tutoring other Hunter students in need of extra help. Islam expects to graduate in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree. She was one of 20 students approached by this reporter who wanted to interview them about their experiences and opinions about the first two weeks of the spring semester. Did they get the classes that they wanted? What were their expectations for the semester? Would they mind posing for a picture to be included in the article? Those kind of questions and requests.

More than 16,000 undergraduate students are enrolled in Hunter and most if not all spend a good deal of their class time on the main campus at 68th Street and Lexington Avenue. With so many potential interview sources available, it shouldn’t be difficult to find students for interviews. This first news assignment of the semester, however, was a learning experience.

Sophia Espinoza, 20, a psychology major, who easily agreed to an interview, says she the beginning of the semester was a breeze. “The first two weeks of classes have actually been really easy going,” she says. She walks to campus from the Hunter dorm on East 79th Street in East Harlem, five days a week to attend classes. “To be honest, I really didn’t have a hard time scheduling classes. It was a smooth process and I think I got lucky with the whole thing.”

Espinoza is a first-year student who wants to graduate in 2021. Wearing a blue jean jacket, black skinny jeans, and a white T-shirt, she was interviewed on the sky bridge between the North and West buildings.The editor had advised this reporter that it would not be easy interviewing students on this campus. One reason, he said, was that undergraduate journalism has a small presence on this campus and students are not accustomed to be asked questions for answers and responses that will up being disseminated. Regardless, I wasn’t planning to be deterred and for the assignment, I only had to interview three students.

Nevertheless, a group of three coeds sitting on the third-floor skybridge said they would agree to be interviewed if they could answer as a group. They also did not want their names in the article.I did listen to their comments to be professionally polite but the assignment required names, personal information like majors and minors and addresses as well as pictures of those interviewed. Trying to interview them was a bust. One did say that she was enjoying her classes despite being taught by all new professors. The other two nodded their heads.

A view of the third-floor skybridge. Picture by Taylor Stanwich.

The students were crowding around a laptop trying, collectively, to read something on the screen, it was clear that they wanted me to leave so that they could get back to whatever it was they had been doing when I approached them.

Another group of students, two females and one male, quieted immediately as I approached. They were sitting outside the West Building and wearing thick coats and hats. It was very clear right away that they were not interested in being interviewed. They seemed ready to flee, the cigarettes still burning in between their fingers. Another bust. My editor later told me that it was possible that they didn’t want to be interviewed because they were smoking in a nonsmoking area. That happens a lot, the editor said.

Many others did not want to comment nor they did not want their pictures taken. It was a challenge just to get one more interview.

Well, I got it.

Vlada Pimenova, 22, a nursing major, was unabashed about being interviewed. “For the first two weeks, I get a general feel for how the professor teaches and what the student group is like,” she says. “ I plan out the rest of the semester according to the due dates, the work starts right away, so there’s no time to waste, really. Also, the first two weeks offer an accurate idea of how the rest of the semester will go.”

Pimenova commutes on three subway lines to the 68th street campus, two days a week; she also commutes the two other days of the week on two different subway lines to the lower east side campus on East 25th street, to learn how to work in rehab centers and hospitals. “I’m at a point where I’m only enrolled in my major courses, so my spot was secured. There was no scheduling issues,” says Pimenova, a senior who expects to graduate in 2018. The interview took place outside the West Building, where Vlada wore a black coat, blue jeans, and a pair of white sneakers.


Taylor Stanich can be reached at