Director of Programs finds a home away from home; leaves after one too many Canada jokes

Shezan Samanani, Director of Programs

Out of all the articles I’ve written in my short-lived writing career, this feels like the most difficult one I’ve had to do so far. How am I supposed to sum up the best experience of university in just one column? I can’t because it is impossible, but here is a disjointed attempt at one anyways.

I came to UT as a soccer player, expecting to not join any orgs or do much else other than go to class and play soccer during my four years here. My first semester, it was COVID and I was out with an injury, so I was looking for something to excite me while I was off the field. I didn’t really know how student journalism worked, but I applied to the opinion department because it was the only department I had heard of. After one poorly written tryout piece, I was rejected and took it as a sign to just focus on recovering and playing that year.

Plot twist: I quit soccer after my freshman year and ended up in not one, but three departments at The Daily Texan the following semester. I was ecstatic when I found out that more than just the opinion department existed. I got accepted first into newsletter and sports, and then video right before orientation. I almost didn’t join the video department because there was a two department maximum “rule,” but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity so just hoped nobody would notice.

Given my background, I thought being a sports reporter is where I would thrive and find my footing as a journalist. I was very wrong, especially because I despised writing gamers. I found my drive in video and knew it was where I wanted to spend all my time and effort, so it’s crazy to think I almost didn’t join the department.

It wouldn’t be a typical Shez story if it didn’t take way too long to get to the point, so with all that being said, this place showed me that there were so many things I could do and accomplish in my post-collegiate athlete life. But more importantly, the people here gave me community when I needed it most. It was going to be the first time in my life when I wasn’t part of a sports team, but that hole was immediately filled by the dingy basement and incredible people it is filled with. They made me feel like I belonged and had something to offer. They made it feel like home.

I was dead-set on writing my 30 last semester, but I wasn’t ready to leave my people when the time came. This semester, I had the opportunity to be the first director of programs ever. After holding the roles of video editor, senior videographer, videographer, sports reporter and newsletter writer, I got to spend one last semester focusing on the one thing that kept me here — community.

To my video minions, thank you for trusting me and putting in an insane amount of work every week. It was my biggest accomplishment getting to lead and learn with you. Never forget how talented each of you are.

Christina D., there is nobody else I would have rather taken this step with. I admire your creativity and you were missed this semester, but I am excited for what senior year has in store for us. Emma, I am so happy we sat beside each other at our first sports pitch meeting. Your kindness for others is unmatched and I can’t wait for more coffee dates.

To The Daily Flexin’, thank you for bringing out my love for team sports and competing again when I thought it was lost. We left everything out there and you all are champions in my eyes. To UT AAJA – Angela, Kevin, Fiza, Michael, Juleanna, Hillary and so many more – thank you for being the supporters everyone wishes they had. I am so lucky to have you all.

Mantra, I can always trust that you’ll have my back. You are the biggest source of amusement and I’m glad you know more about Canada than you wish you did. Julius, you brought so much life to the basement during the late nights. I hope the equipment closet roaches are more scared of us than we are of them.

Breigh, you are my biggest cheerleader. I am in awe of how you carry yourself and I’m happy we will be moving our weekly debriefs to somewhere above ground. Christina H., you broke our pact of leaving this place together but the basement is lucky to have your presence for another semester. I would perform an “investigative” Instagram search for you any day.

To my editors, Anchal and Nathan, thank you for taking a chance on me and believing in me. You taught me what it means to show up and be dependable. Reya and Sage, we really lucked out with being desk neighbours. I loved how trying to get work done was constantly disrupted by chatting and goofiness.

Sara, Megan, Sruti, Morgan and Kamryn, you made production nights a reminder of why I love being here. I will miss the unhinged opinion polls. Peter, I will never forget when you called me into your office one evening to show me your flesh-eating maggots video. Thank you for all that you do for this newsroom. To everyone else I have had the pleasure of working with, I hope your experience here was just as wonderful as mine.

To my non-Texan friends, thanks for sticking by me when I was burnt out and never wanted to do anything. And lastly, to my parents, thank you for supporting me no matter what and for pushing me to be and do my best.

I am so grateful to be leaving as a better journalist and person, but more importantly, leaving with life-long friendships and the best memories. I don’t know what university post-soccer would have looked like for me without the Texan and the people here — they  really are what make this place so special and what makes leaving so hard. We crave community, so nothing beats being surrounded by your community almost everyday — by the people who inspire you, who grow with you and who are always by your side.

I can say it is because of them that I developed an attachment to the basement. No really, I am not sure where I am going to spend all my time now and I will have to find a new excuse for getting out of doing things since I guess saying ‘I have Daily Texan’ won’t work anymore.

You join The Daily Texan hoping that you will become better prepared for the future, but you leave understanding that life is about so much more than just getting ready for what is next. Reach for the stars, find your people and have some fun on the way. I hope I’ve left a lot of chaos and a little bit of Canada in the basement.