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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Mar. 31, 2022 3 months ago

THIS OAR THAT: Observer welcomes new staff writer

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When I was little, my favorite thing to do was listen to my dad tell stories.
by: Andrea Mujica Staff Writer

When I was little, my favorite thing to do was listen to my dad tell stories. 

Every day on our way to school, my dad would come up with a story to keep my brother and me entertained. To this day, he has a way of narrating a story with such emotion, you actually believe you are a part of it. 

My love for writing was born from those story times in the car. Because of my dad, I fell in love with the idea of sharing my words with others. For years I struggled to figure out what stories I wanted to tell; nothing I wrote felt good or relevant enough. 

Growing up, I realized the stories I wanted to tell were not my own but rather belonged to others. I was naturally curious, and that cinched it: I wanted to become a journalist. 

I moved to the United States when I was 18 years old. Before I left my home country (Venezuela), I already had been accepted to study journalism at the Andres Bello Catholic University. On Oct. 12, 2012, when I boarded the plane that took me to the U.S., my heart was racing. For the first time in my life, I was headed toward the unknown. As I watched  my hometown fade away through the window, I had no idea that would be one of the last times I would ever see it. 

My plan was to take a sabbatical year to study English as a second language in Charlotte, North Carolina. Politically, things had started to destabilize in Venezuela, so one day over the phone, my parents told me they were moving to Orlando. So, I started to apply to colleges here.

I was accepted into Rollins College to study English and literature. During my second year, I transferred to the University of Central Florida. Two years later, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in creative writing. 

While studying at the Nicholson School of Communication, I wrote stories for the school’s newspaper, Nicholson Student Media. There, I wrote my first sports stories. 

When I think of my life, I think of it as a film strip, and in every frame, there’s sports. 

One of my earliest memories is playing catch with my dad. We used to go to a park near our house and throw a baseball every Sunday, while my mom sat on a chair close to us. Sometimes, she also played, and those were the best days. Every week, I looked forward to those Sunday afternoons, playing catch and swinging a bat. I loved it.

The first frame of my film strip is tennis. I played for almost a decade during my elementary and most of my middle school years. Back then, I would go to all the swim meets my brother had. Cheering from the benches was fun, but I yearned for the competition the sport encompassed so much that I decided to try swimming. 

That’s where the second film strip of my life began. During my years as a swimmer, I learned what it means to push yourself to the limit, to keep going even though your lungs hurt, because every single stroke counts. There’s a gap in my competitive sports life between my last years of high school and my first year of college, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t continue playing sports and watching them. 

My last film strip involving competitive sports came during my years at Rollins, where I discovered rowing. Coming from Venezuela, I never knew rowing was a sport. I remember receiving an email inviting all freshmen to try out. It was then I found a sport that is as beautiful as it is demanding. Rowing was the first sport I played that required you to train and compete as a team. I loved that every day you train as one boat, not as separate individuals, and that every person in the boat has one another’s back from the first stroke to the last. 

I am the oldest of five siblings — all of them athletes in their own sports. My family’s weekends have always revolved around the sports we’ve played. That is why I am so humbled and honored to be able to combine both my passions, telling stories and sports, and pour them into my role of sports reporter at your community newspaper. 

And so, there you have it West Orange. I am delighted to share your amazing sports stories, celebrate your athletes and immerse myself in this vibrant sports community. Let’s roll!

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Andrea Mujica is a staff writer for the West Orange Times & Observer, the Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com. She covers sports, news and features. She holds both a bachelor's degree in journalism and an MBA from the University of Central Florida....

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