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Communication grad travels the world, lands at the Washington Post

Sep 13, 2019

Sometimes it takes a life-altering experience to spur a person to pursue a dream. That’s how it was for Pacific alumna Natalie Compton, who graduated in 2012 with a degree in communication.

Compton has wanted to be a travel journalist for as long as she can remember. But it wasn't until she suffered a frightening accident in Thailand that she decided to make the leap.

During a retreat at the public relations company she was working for, she dove into a pool that was shallower than she thought and cut her head. Sixty stitches were required.

"I had this life-changing thought," she said. "I realized I hadn't tried living my dream. So, if not now, when?"

That was 2014, when she began her journey as a freelance journalist. This June, she joined the Washington Post, writing for the paper's new online travel section, By the Way.

As a freelance journalist, Compton wrote for lesser-known publications on a host of subjects around her passions for food, travel and culture.

"I covered baseball players in Taiwan and cannabis culture in India," Compton said. The experience was great even when the pay was low.

Over time, more prominent outlets such as GQ, Vice and Bon Appetit hired her to write travel stories. She's climbed Kilimanjaro, learned about tequila-making in Mexico and seen penguins up-close in Antarctica.

She says it's a life Pacific helped prepare her for. "I learned to be a professional at University of the Pacific, and I had a great communication degree that helped me be a better communicator," she said. "But it was also work on the school paper that was helpful." 

Compton cited then-visiting professor of communication Dave Fredrickson as especially influential. Fredrickson had a journalism background and worked in communication at the White House. "He was a real-life example of what a career in journalism could be."

The past year has been a rollercoaster. She was traveling the world writing stories for GQ regularly when the magazine suddenly cut its travel section. Compton scrambled to find replacement work. 

She applied to the New York Times for the paper's coveted 52 Places Traveler position to explore new destinations every week for a year. She made it to the final four applicants but didn't get the job.

"Then, I was like, 'Ohhhh, my God. I have nothing now,'" she said.

But then, the Washington Post called. Editors had seen her work for GQ and interviewed her for a job providing travel tips on its new digital microsite, By the Way. To her surprise, the Post hired her. She has worked there since June but says it still doesn't feel real.

"I'll walk through the building and see the font and the marble lobby and still not understand that it's my real life," she said.

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