Kelli Shiroma

My Biola Experience

Transferring to Biola University for my sophomore year of college was a significant milestone in my life. It was the first time I would be living away from home — about 3,000 miles away, to be exact — in Honolulu, Hawaii. And it marked the start of my journalistic education. Up until this point, that education had been nonexistent.

I entered the University of Hawaii at Manoa my freshman year as an English major. But when a friend asked me to write features articles for the university’s daily campus newspaper — it needed more staff writers — I discovered I enjoyed journalism. What began as a voluntary contribution became a paid position, and a light bulb went on in my mind: I was getting paid for something I simply enjoyed! After a semester of writing for the daily newspaper, I decided that when I transferred to Biola University I would change my major to journalism.

The transition from being an English major to a journalism major – with an emphasis in print – went smoothly. Granted, I had some catching up to do, as I learned the basics of journalistic style during my first year at Biola. But I learned a lot from my classes and my professors’ insights. I got plugged in at The Chimes, Biola’s weekly newspaper, and became a contributing writer for the features section.

As I gained more experience in journalism and learned the profession’s “nuts and bolts” during my sophomore year, I became uneasy about my major. Unlike many of my classmates, I wasn’t exactly sure if I wanted to work at a prestigious newspaper. As a print journalism major, I only knew that writing was my passion. It wasn’t until I interned at a variety of organizations and explored more campus media outlets that I figured out what I wanted to do with my journalistic training.

During the summer before my junior year, I did my first public relations internship at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Even though I was not an aspiring publicist, this internship sparked my interest in the field of public relations, teaching me more about the relationship between the journalist and the publicist. While I did not get to write many articles during this PR internship, I did a lot of writing of another kind – drafting press releases, a skill which would later be useful in another public relations internship. I also had my first experience writing for a magazine: I got to  freelance a few articles for UH’s alumni magazine, Malamalama.

My junior year at Biola University marked another transition in my college career: the transition from newspaper to magazines. Publication of my freelance pieces made me eager to gain more experience writing for magazines. After I took The Point magazine practicum in the fall and became a staff member in the spring, I realized just how much my writing style was geared toward magazines. I loved being able to create multiple drafts of my story; I enjoyed writing longer, in-depth pieces that were not as timely as those in newspapers. This realization only came after being increasingly involved as a staff member at both The Chimes and The Point. I learned the difference between writing for a newspaper, a newspaper’s online edition and a magazine. Upon understanding my writing style and passion, I set out to find another internship that would hone my skills at magazine writing.

The summer before my senior year was filled with writing, as I juggled two part-time internships with completely different magazines. On three days of the week, I interned at New Hope Christian Fellowship, my home church in Hawaii. I was the editorial intern for New Hope’s monthly magazine, Life at its Best. Because the managing editor (my boss) was also the magazine’s graphic designer, I had the opportunity to lead the editorial section of the magazine. I wrote numerous articles in the publication and helped to brainstorm ideas for upcoming issues. During this internship, I realized that my passion was writing stories for magazines. Even though my internship was unpaid, I felt the greatest satisfaction knowing that, through my writing, I was helping church members to share stories of how God changed their lives. While doing the internship at my church, I also interned twice a week at Hawaii Home + Remodeling magazine, Hawaii’s leading home-improvement and remodeling publication. Writing and editing articles for this magazine taught me the importance of learning how to write for a variety of audiences … especially when I had to write articles about wood flooring and stone tiles.

My last internship came unexpectedly during my senior year when I had the opportunity to intern at Metro Public Relations, a talent PR company located in Beverly Hills. It gave me a glimpse of talent public relations: From organizing events to helping clients get involved in charities, I witnessed just how much behind-the-scenes work publicists did for their clients. The experience I had at Metro PR was invaluable, as I considered pursuing talent public relations sometime in the future.

I am currently working as the managing editor of Life at its Best magazine. It was only after completing a variety of internships and being involved in campus media outlets that I realized where my passions were. I made a lot of connections through my internships, as well as friendships — all of which eventually led to getting me my first job.

I learned that, as important as my classes at Biola were, nothing could replace the lessons I learned from getting involved in various facets of campus media and participating in different internships. Even though some of these internships entailed work that seemed unrelated to my future journalistic aspirations at the time, I realized that every experience was significant in its own way. Each internship helped me understand a different area of journalism and helped me grow both educationally and as a person. As I look back on my journey at Biola, I remember all the different transitions throughout my college career – from Hawaii to California, English to Journalism, and newspapers to magazines. I am so grateful for all the experiences the Lord has given me and, now, for the opportunity to fulfill my purpose to reach people for His glory through writing.