Profiles of Tenacity: Sophie Ralph

Profiles of Tenacity: Sophie Ralph

October 05, 2023

Fourth-year journalism student Sophie Ralph is passionate about storytelling in and out of the classroom. She shares advice on making the most out of the opportunities at Grady College whilst maintaining a balance between school and self-care.

Why did you choose your major?

I chose to study journalism because I’ve always been a storyteller over many different platforms and levels of creative interpretation. Growing up, I wrote short stories and created video skits with my friends. I was always eager to write and get a camera in my hand, so naturally, I was involved with the newspaper and yearbook in high school. I loved telling the unique stories of my peers and in retrospect, I acknowledge how incredible it was to document the culture and important issues of the time. When it came time to decide on my major, journalism felt like the perfect fit. 

What does tenacity mean to you?   

I see tenacity in my life in the small things. I see it when I cook a homemade meal even though I have work to do, when I brush my teeth even though I’m tired, or when I take time to write a handwritten letter to my family or friends. Tenacity means making the conscious decision to invest in myself to improve my mind, body and soul. Tenacity in the traditional sense, the idea of intense persistence where you just need to keep pushing yourself until you “make it” doesn’t work for me. I won’t feel successful until I’m happy, so I’m learning to determine when to persevere in my work and when I need to invest in self-care – and for me, tenacity is the balance of the two.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to other Grady students?    

One piece of advice I’d give to other Grady students is to explore as much as possible in Grady and at UGA. There are so many different student organizations, opportunities, programs and events offered here, and you never know what might inspire a change in you, or what just might be fun! As someone with too many interests, I understand how overwhelming this can be, but trying one new hobby or joining one club makes a difference in adding to your collegiate career. This is also a great opportunity to meet people outside your major! Some of my favorite Grady experiences were outside my journalism bubble and I’ve loved making friends with other Grady majors. 

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

My most memorable Grady experience was actually 9,341 miles away from Athens, Georgia. This summer, I traveled to Sydney, Australia to cover the FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup with several other students from the Carmical Sports Media Institute, which was a life-changing experience. It was an unreal feeling to step out onto the pitch with 75,000 fans cheering around me. I’d never done such high-profile work before, and seeing my photos circulate around the world on the Associated Press wire was a much greater reach than any of my previous work. Getting to work as a professional sports photographer was so rewarding and just as rewarding were the relationships I built along the way (to the DYJ: ham up!). I loved exploring Australia with my classmates, even when it was just aimlessly riding the ferries around Sydney Harbor, getting gelato in the middle of a (very mild) Australian winter or wandering the streets with the White Ibises.

What or who has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA?

Professor Vicki Michaelis had the biggest impact on me in my Grady journey. She’s always been there to soothe my anxieties but also push me outside of my comfort zone. I’ve grown so much as a journalist under her instruction. I always appreciate her advice over lunch in her office, whether it’s about asserting yourself in the workplace (especially as a woman), or just about what restaurants to eat at in Athens. Some of her advice has set off a domino effect that changed my life. For example, while in one of her classes, she suggested that I switch to photojournalism for my specialty course, even though I had been set on taking a different one. I trusted her advice and switched. I would have never imagined that this choice would lead me to photographing the FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup just one year later. Because of Professor Michaelis, I never doubt that I have someone in my corner at UGA who truly cares about me and who believes in me, even when I don’t believe in myself. I’m so grateful for all of the effort she’s poured into me and all of her students.

What motivates you?

I’m motivated by the idea of telling stories that matter, both to myself and my community. I’ve seen firsthand what it means to cover my local community and what it means to people. In addition, I’d love to report on environmental issues and sustainability solutions after graduation. I’ve always been an environmentally conscious nature lover, but studying sustainability at UGA has added nuance to my view of sustainability, and I’d like to explore these complexities in my reporting. I love to learn new things, so journalism is a great avenue to keep learning. This makes me motivated to continue this work – that way I can always be exploring new topics, talking to different people and sharing that with my communities.

Where’s your favorite place on campus and why?

My favorite place on campus is the UGA Botanical Garden. In addition to the outdoor gardens and trails, they have a cafe and some tables in the conservatory, so it’s a super cute study spot! I love being surrounded by all of the plants and natural light. I’m also a sucker for anywhere on North Campus.

What advice would you give to your freshman self?    

If I could give my freshman self some advice, it would be this: don’t be afraid. Don’t compare yourself to others (something I’m still learning). It’s so easy to feel insecure about your journey, and constantly feel like you’re not doing enough, or that you’re not good enough. Everyone takes their own path, so spend time investing in yours and not worrying about everyone else’s. It’s impossible to do everything, so focus on what makes you feel excited, and if you’re not sure, it’s okay. You’ll find it.