From a career in law to a career in journalism: Alumna Nina Terrero shares her story

At some point in your Cornell career, you may have found yourself sitting in your Collegetown apartment questioning your career plans -- wondering if the path you are choosing is the right one, or if your major really is the best fit.
She knows from experience. This type of thinking might have alarmed you then, but alumna Nina Terrero '07 reassures you: these thoughts were perfectly fine and perhaps even necessary.

A senior correspondent at Entertainment Weekly, Terrero graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences with a degree in government, along with two minors: science and technology studies, and law and society. She'd originally planned to attend law school after graduation and dedicated her undergraduate career to that goal, serving as student body president and participating in the student assembly.

But when she finally was accepted to law school, she discovered she was no longer in love with that career choice. So instead of sending in her tuition to law school and committing, she decided to dip her toes into the legal field and work as a corporate paralegal at a New York City law firm.

Thanks to the recession that hit in 2007 and all the downtime that came with it, Terrero was able to explore the realm of online journalism while working at the firm.

"All these cool blogs, all kinds of new writers, were emerging online," she says. Eventually, she came to realize that journalism was where she wanted to be.

"Expressing myself creatively was something I'd always loved doing."

The decision to switch gears and change career paths was not an easy one.

"I didn't know anyone who was on camera … I had no one to talk to," she recalls. "I didn't have my parents' financial support to lean on. The decision seemed almost impossible to make. Pretty much everyone I knew at Cornell seemed to have their future laid out for them in finance, banking, medicine, engineering … for me to be [moving] away from that and decide that law school wasn't for me seemed like the biggest, scariest thing in the world."

But she felt prepared to handle that kind of change because of her Cornell liberal arts education. "One of the reasons I went to Arts and Sciences was so that I could have flexibility in creating my curriculum," she says. "I studied everything from Mandarin to nutrition to politics -- that was a real luxury that was afforded to me."

For students who want to change fields but are hesitant to do so, her advice is to be honest with yourself. "Don't fall prey to the mistake of comparing yourself to everyone around you," she says. "Cornell is a competitive environment, and it's all too easy to compare yourself and your success to everyone around you."

Take advantage of as many internships as you can in college, she says, and reach out to alumni with questions.

At Cornell, Terrero participated in the Cornell in Washington program and took part in externships offered by alumni.

In addition to organizations like the Dominican Student Association, the Ski and Snowboarding Club and the Puerto Rican Student Association, Terrero was a member of the Student Assembly and the Class Council. Campaigning, she says, helped her enact what she'd learned in her government classes in real life.

Now, as a senior correspondent at Entertainment Weekly, Terrero specializes in covering movies, TV, pop culture and style.

"A typical day for me doesn't exist," she says, "but that's why I love my job … There's always a lot going on."

On some days, she might write a story at home before heading into the office, or appear as a radio host on a morning show like Sirius XM. At the office, she might write a couple of digital stories, conduct an interview over the phone or attend a lunch meeting. Afterward, she might transcribe her interview, go to a film screening or moderate a panel. "I love talking to people and connecting with fans and readers … and I love sharing and making people think in a way they haven't before," she says.

"In film or television, you usually see two kinds of journalists," she says, when asked about myths surrounding journalism careers. "You see the beautiful journalist on the red carpet interviewing, and the hardened journalist slaving away on some investigative report … but I think most successful journalists do it all. They are multimedia journalists who are endlessly devoted." That kind of drive and passion is vital in the field, she adds.

Terrero advises students not to worry too much about their career paths, but instead take the time to appreciate their fellow Cornellians, since what she misses most is living with and being able to see her friends every day. "I miss the days when I could knock on [my friends'] doors and go to RPCC," she says. "Never take that for granted."

Agnes Shin '18 is a communications assistant for the College of Arts and Sciences

This story first appeared in Ezra Update.

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