ALEXIS CRUZ WRITES — The end of summer marks the start of the academic year, and I am ecstatic to go back to school. But this time, I will be in graduate school pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Policy at the USC Price School of Public Policy. I figured I’d write a goodbye letter to the place that has shaped me in immeasurable ways— Asia Media International

People who know me point out that I’ve hardly stopped smiling since my acceptance to Price. Though, I am also sad that I will no longer be at Asia Media International.

Cruz and AMI staffers take a coffee-break amid reporting on movie screenings

I joined AMI in 2015 after my friends, Lexie Tucker and Shuting Li, both student staffers at the time, pestered me to write for the publication. This turned out to be a life-changing decision, although I had no idea back then.

I met Professor Thomas Plate, Asia Media Editor-in-Chief and LMU professor, who, on the first impression, seemed eccentric—- even for a professor— with office walls broadcasting his impressive career, literally covered with framed photos of him working alongside the likes of Bill Clinton, Lee Kuan Yew, Thaksin Shinawatra, and Ronald Reagan, etc.

Following a delightful meeting with “Prof. Tom,” so called by a long line of devoted students, I met Benjamin Sullivan, an extraordinarily kind and gifted educator, who at the time was a writing consultant for AMI.

Our staff meetings took place in Prof. Tom’s office, a cozy den of a room filled with books (in between the photographic displays), a very comfy sofa, blankets and a fridge fully stocked with sodas and snacks. The space is also equipped with a great audio-video system for communicating with scholars and students all over the world. To me, Prof. Tom’s office is a physical embodiment of his care and concern for students who are usually broke and desperate to escape the hectic campus.

Cruz and AMI staffers reporting at the Asian World Film Festival

Prof. Tom and Ben encouraged me to write about anything— as long as I was passionate about it and the story could incorporate a media angle. I started with the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, writing about media censorship involving worker-rights abuses related to building the stadiums. I then moved on to topics like the Al Jazeera network’s disputes over censorship with Middle Eastern countries. The first few months were difficult because I was trying to figure out how to write within AMI’s parameters as well as stay true to my style,. Thankfully, Prof. Tom and Ben were always available to give advice. Through them I learned that the media angle crucial to AMI was not a restraint, and in fact could be used to write about anything.

After honing my skills by writing on soccer, I delved into film reviews. Looking back, I would have never expected to make that leap without people at Asia Media encouraging me. I’ve always loved talking about movies, especially with Ben, who was the first to assign me to write a film review. I guess I’d uncovered a hidden talent, for after that, Ben and Prof. Tom let me take over as AMI’s lead film viewer. That led to one of my most rewarding experiences: covering the Asian World Film Festival in Los Angeles. It was fantastic to see films from all over the continent, plus I got a chance to talk to some great Asian filmmakers and critics!

Finally, being around Prof. Tom and student staffers at Asia Media helped me figure out what I wanted to pursue in graduate school, and beyond. I now want to become a journalist like Prof. Tom, and will begin by emulating his journey through public policy school. This path will not only accommodate a lot of my interests, (soccer, film) but will enhance my knowledge of difficult subjects I want to write about.

Thank you, Asia Media. You have given me an outlet to continuously write on everything under the stars and to get published. All of those articles created a diverse portfolio that made a difference when applying to graduate school. Not to mention the wonderful people I have met—academics, students, and scholars from vastly different pockets of the world. I will miss the conversations I was a part of, the stories I won’t be able to tell or hear, the meals and drinks I won’t be able to share as I turn the page to a new chapter.

But I am excited for the new people joining Asia Media who are about to go down a road that maybe, just possibly, could change them forever. 

Cruz enjoys his evening at Loyola Marymount University’s campus

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