Alumnus voice: Cultivating my life

From an article on MSU Today

Brandon Drain graduated this spring with a degree in Journalism in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. He is working in communications in the College of Social Science and freelancing as a writer for a magazine. Drain is working on his first novel and plans to pursue a career in screenwriting.

Prior to coming to Michigan State, I existed in a perpetual state of poverty and homelessness for many years. Throughout the latter portions of my high school tenure, I was caught in a cycle of staying with friends in order to go to school and football practice — sleeping on their couches, floors and even in garages. My goal was to graduate high school and pave a way for myself to create a future that didn’t consist of what I’d been through my entire life: I wanted to become the difference that I’d so desperately needed — to break free from the margins of society and grasp onto the rungs of success. I graduated from high school as a magna cum laude — despite the adversity I faced — and was offered a chance to attend MSU for free via the Spartan Advantage Award — an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.

Coming to college was a culture shock to say the least, especially for someone who had no prior knowledge about what attending a big university would entail. Being a first-generation college student offered a strange dichotomy of pros and cons. I was completely unaware of how to navigate the collegiate experience with regard to how I would orchestrate my academic and social life, as well as getting the experience and know-how to build a career.

But the bright side of having no prior college experience in my family meant I could blaze my own trail and navigate this new social sphere in a purely authentic manner. Everything that I did was of my own volition. I was granted an unprecedented opportunity that many in my position didn’t have, so I had to make the most of it — even if I didn’t know where or how to start.

I joined the FAME program my freshman year because they offered a genuine sense of compassion and understanding for students like me. I was able to get firsthand experience on the fundamentals of college derived by graduate students and professionals in their careers. Planning out my goals and working alongside a coach was helpful as well, and it resulted in my being on the dean’s list for both semesters — the start of a continuous trend throughout my college career.

Being here at MSU provided me experiential, firsthand knowledge and awareness to the world around me that, prior to coming, I never knew existed. I was able to mold myself as a man in a way that I never saw possible and in a myriad of ways that go beyond just the academic experience.

Dropping out was never an option; I worked hard every summer — always pushing my mind with classes that didn’t fit my schedule in the fall and spring. In today’s world of communications, one has to be equipped with the know-how of every aspect of storytelling so that is what I had to do. I sought out multimedia classes that emphasized the uses of photography and videography to tell stories in different ways. Now, I’d consider myself to be well-versed in any storytelling aspect.

I kept moving forward because I didn’t have the privilege of leaving college to go back home with mom and dad — it was all me. MSU became the canvas I used to cultivate the life I have now, and the one I’m continuing to build for the near and distant future.

Explore the New Digital Storytelling Major

More News from J School