College is where most students come to find their purpose, passions and or career paths. Most people look for these paths or passions in their major, part-time jobs, or internships chosen during their university experience. In my junior year, I found mine by exploring my passion for fitness. I have always had a passion for fitness and had entertained the thought of becoming a fitness instructor or trainer to satisfy my curiosity about the body and movement! During the Fall semester of my junior year, I enrolled in a Group Fitness training program with the goal of becoming a Group Fitness Instructor and teaching at the Student Recreation Center. At the time, the decision was risky because the program would require so much of my time and effort and could distract me from my academic work. Hoping the certification would make me happy, I took a leap of faith that I could manage both. Not only did I complete the program, eventually I was offered a job at the Rec Center that lasted until I graduated.
Within the first semester of working as an instructor, I came to love my job so much so that I decided I wanted to pursue recreation, fitness and wellness as a full-time job. Since working at the Rec Center, I have looked at jobs within this industry and thought about going to graduate school for recreation or health programming. I would have never had the opportunity to explore these options if I had not chosen to look for opportunities to explore my passions. UNCW offers such a wide variety of classes, clubs, and activities that offer opportunities to discover a new interest, hobby or passion. My sophomore self thought I needed plenty of internships and small jobs to provide me with sufficient career experience for obtaining a job that I would be happy with post-grad. I could have easily skipped any opportunities to explore a hobby or side passion just to make time for something I felt obligated to do or to take an internship that I “thought” would help me succeed.
College is a vulnerable time of your life and it is possible to be interested in so many things that it can feel overwhelming. But by opening yourself up to any small opportunity, even if it is slightly different from your already established plans, you might find a world of new experiences! From my time at UNCW, this was what I found to be the most important. Do not say no to any little opportunity that resonates with you even if it is not aligned with your plans and goals. Hindsight is 20/20 and we should never regret our experience and where they have landed us now but it is always important to give ourselves the space for exploring new interests and hobbies that will open new paths.
I have treasured every moment of working at the Rec Center and teaching classes to different people about their bodies. As my senior year is coming to an end, I am so grateful to have had this job experience and for the doors it has opened for me and my future. Because I chose to take a job working at the Rec Center, I had the amazing opportunity to expand my knowledge and love for yoga by becoming a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher. I plan to take on yoga full-time at some point in my life and bring the benefits of this practice to anyone interested. Remember to take the leap of faith, as a college student, to explore new options and interests. I am glad that I took the risk and would not change a thing!
Melissa Olan, UNCW COM Class of Spring 2020
Melissa is a Communication Studies major with a minor in Recreation, Sports Leadership and Tourism Management. After graduation, she plans to take time off to explore her options and pursue yoga full-time before settling into a corporate job. When she’s not practicing or teaching yoga or studying, you will find her cooking, moving, or being outdoors soaking up the sun and fresh air.