|Wooden wolf art piece located in the newly renovated Talley Student Union. | Photo: Chris White|
I was scrolling through the new "On This Day" feature on Facebook and realized something: five years ago this month, I began my undergrad career at N.C. State.
I made a huge life transition at that time. It's cliché but I was no longer a big fish in a small pond. The memories are still fresh from that very first move-in on campus: carrying a crapload of my stuff up 10 flights of stairs at Sullivan Hall, walking into the suite and being greeted by some guy looking like he'd just rolled out of bed, saying in a surfer dude tone "Oh cool, new roommates." plus my mom telling me how she got into the car after I was all settled in and started bawling her eyes out. She said that she felt like she was dropping me off into uncharted waters, letting me go from under her wings. In all actuality, she was. But my years as an undergrad would end up being some of the hardest and best in my life so far. Of course, class and grades were the hard part but there were some great memories too, like going to football and basketball games, late night runs to D.H. Hill Library for a scoop or two of Howling Cow ice cream and having Madden tournaments with my suitemates.
Beyond dorm life, some of the most memorable experiences for me involved seeing cool people in person - I'm talking about Chris Hughes, President Obama and J.B. Bernstein. In 2011, President Obama made a stop at Reynolds Coliseum to deliver a speech in support of the American Jobs Act. That was an experience like none before. I had to miss a class to stand in a long line at the Brickyard for a ticket and run to another class to take an exam just a half-hour after the president's speech (more on that here). On to Hughes, most noted for being a co-founder of Facebook, who appeared at Stewart Theater on campus in 2012 to give an interesting lecture on why we should invest in media considered to be "old and outdated" (more on that here). Finally, I was able to see - and meet - J.B. Bernstein when he stopped by the new Talley Student Union shortly before I graduated. Bernstein is the man for which Million Dollar Arm is about.
College also gave me opportunities to discover myself and grow as a young professional - such as attending a professional conference to network with others, volunteering in the community and presenting at a symposium. One of the first professional experiences I had came Freshman year when I attended the North Carolina Recreation and Park Association (NCRPA) Conference in Raleigh. Although it made for a long day, the conference was a unique opportunity for me right off to discover the vast park and recreation field as well as interact with professionals in the field. As far as volunteer experiences go, I helped the community around me in numerous capacities: from being a table tennis scorer at the N.C. Senior Games State Finals, to a registration table associate at the Electric Run and more. The volunteer experiences I was apart of - albeit most were for class credit - were not only enjoyable but also beneficial to me as a young professional and allowed me to gain valuable experience in the field that I may not have recieved otherwise. Lastly, in 2013, I was honored to be one of only seven student presenters at the College of Natural Resources' Diversity Symposium. I went a step beyond my peers and created a blog addressing the topic of diversity in coaching sport. I presented the project before a group of faculty members and special guests and it was well-received.
In 2014, I translated all that I'd learned and experienced into an internship opportunity at Duke Homestead State Historic Site. Although it wasn't directly related to sport, the skills I learned while interning there spanned a wide range and those skills can be utilized in any future job I pursue. I knew an internship experience was required for me to graduate but I was pretty darn nervous about it when I was a frosh and even into my sophomore and junior years. The internship ended up working out well and I got a taste of what it takes to run a travel and tourism destination like Duke Homestead - while having a little fun as well. What were the fun parts, you might ask? Well, for me, one was giving guided tours of the historic site each day and learning where people traveled from to visit the site. Turns out that site visitors came from all across the United States and the globe to see the historic grounds at Duke Homestead. Another fun experience I had there was being the host of the Tobacco Queen Pageant during the site's Pork, Pickles and Peanuts event. That was a different experience for me to say the least haha!
I could probably write a short novel about all of my experiences in the last five years or so of my life. Now, I'm slowly but surely transitioning into another new chapter of my life: finding a job. I knew it would be tough but I didn't fully grasp that concept until experiencing it firsthand. I've considered a multitude of organizations to start my career off with but most of what I find is either part-time/seasonal or higher up jobs. Another problem I have - I guess it's a good problem - is I have too many interests. I love music, sports, writing/editing and photography. I just wish I could wrap it all up into one job. In the meantime, I'm volunteering at Duke Homestead and in other capacities to help me to boost my resume as I continue the job search. In fact, I'll be volunteering in just a couple weeks at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C. The tournament is a PGA Tour event rooted deep in history and this year's field of players is already shaping up to be great. Although I'd hoped for this new transition to be a tad quicker, I'm confident that I'll find my place in the workforce very soon. Meanwhile, I'll continue to volunteer and reminisce about all of my experiences at N.C. State.
Here's my advice for incoming college freshman everywhere: you're going to have struggles in college, let's face it. College will not be a cakewalk. BUT make sure to experience every cool opportunity that your college or university provides. Enjoy it too because, next thing you know, you'll be walking across that stage as a college grad!