And Just Like That… It Is Over

Nine days. Nine days until I graduate from the Department of Communication Studies. Nine days until I graduate from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Nine days.

Two years ago I transferred to the University of North Carolina Wilmington and felt like a lost puppy. I started my collegiate experience at a tiny college in the mountains of North Carolina that had max 700 students. When I stepped foot onto the campus here I felt overwhelmed and out-of-place. For the first week of classes I carried a campus map around with me. Yes, I was that person. Now, you cannot get me to leave campus. I clock in close to twelve-hour days almost every day and would not have it any other way. This campus and most importantly, this department, have become a part of me.

When I first decided to become a COM major I missed the deadline to register for COM 105 so I decided to write 44898_4007609985004_1192673791_nmy appeal so I could receive an over-ride into the class. I thought that I followed all of Dr. Weber’s strict guidelines but made the one mistake that no COM major should ever make… I wrote ‘Communications Studies’. It was social suicide. Needless to say, I received a very detailed response from Dr. Weber explaining why I would not be getting into the class and how I need to do more research before I claim I want to be a part of this department. Today, I have taken a class with Dr. Weber every semester since taking COM 105 (after I got registered the next semester), completed a DIS (Direct Independent Study) with him and just received the Undergraduate Research Award from him. It is funny how everything comes full circle!

Not only have I thrived within the department but outside of it as well. This past summer I had the experience of a lifetime. I was offered a position as one of twenty-five interns at the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp. This was the opportunity of a lifetime and I was fortunate enough to have the support of my professors Dr. Weber and Dr. Persuit. These professors shared the excitement with me and kept up with me throughout my time up in Pennsylvania, although I am sure Dr. Persuit would have preferred me to have been at the Steelers Training Camp. For a month I was immersed in the culture of the Northeast, the land of WaWa gas stations, where pizzas are called pies, subs are hoagies and people stared at me when I would say “holy cow!” I got to see first hand the behind the scenes process of a professional sports team. The level of organization was amazing and pushed me to work as hard as I possibly could.

Training Camp was held at Lehigh University and we were involved in every aspect of it. We started our journey together by completely setting up camp prior to the arrival of the rookie players. Once rookies arrived we had close to fourteen hour days. We started our days around 5:45am, worked morning practice, had a lunch break, worked afternoon practice and then were able to leave once everything was broken down and all players were back in the locker room. Veterans arrived a week after the rookies and I was so thankful for their arrival at camp because that meant filet mignon and lobster tails in the dining hall! I could singly handedly write this entire blog on the food I ate at training camp but will end this little tid bit with your mouth watering as you think about the jumbo shrimp, king crab legs, and monsterous lobster tails that we consumed daily. Hungry yet?

Because of my strong communication skills my boss put me at the Welcome Tent for the afternoon practice. The afternoon practice was the busiest because it was full pads for two plus hours every day. Training Camp drew in close to 7,000 fans daily and I was the first person they came in contact with upon their arrival. My job was to be in constant contact with my boss over the radio, make the fans feel welcome and get them excited about being at camp.

When I came back to “civilian life” as I called it, I felt like a changed person. All of my COM classes prepared me for that experience. I utilized my interpersonal and small group skills but also conflict resolution because some fans were not so friendly. I know, hard to believe for Philadelphia fans. After interning with the Eagles I am a much more confident communicator and know what it takes to complete tasks and complete them well. This experience has opened up a whole new world for me. My professors have a strong level of trust in me. I have been fortunate enough to represent the department while meeting Provost Battles, help with media training and be a part of an amazing DIS project.

Although entering the ‘real world’ is nerve-wracking, I feel 100% prepared for this next step. I will be a temporary employee in the Seahawk Sports Marketing Department here at UNCW and feel fortunate to have such a wonderful job with wonderful bosses.

To wrap things up my advice to all of you is to embrace everything this major has to offer. You never know what direction it can take you and it is up to you to make the most of it. Two years ago I would have never imagined that I would be the person I am today. Thank you to all of my family, friends and professors who have helped to mold me into a strong and confident individual. I look forward to hearing what great things everyone comes to accomplish and staying in touch with the professors who I can never thank enough for all they have done. Remember your Seahawk roots and Dare to Soar in everything you do.

Caroline Merrill