By: Michalah Matthews
As a transfer student, I didn’t necessarily have your average introduction to the society of college students. I transferred from a very small community college located in my hometown to UNCW in the Spring of 2018. I participated in a handful of events on campus my very first semester and even signed up for a few clubs, despite being a fairly introverted individual. I even decided on my major in Communication Studies in my first semester at the university. While I did have an overall good experience in my time at UNCW within the Communication Department, I feel like most individuals choose to focus on highlighting the “ups” of their college experience rather than focus on the things they didn’t do so well. So for all you up-and-coming freshmen/transfers, I am going to compile a list of my mistakes and hopefully, you can learn from my experience.
AN INTRO TO COM
One of the first classes you will take as a COM major is the COM 105 course, which gives you an introduction to what a major in communication looks like. You study the origin of speech, and the five canons, a dive a bit deeper into the mechanisms of research while utilizing all the elements that rhetoric has to offer. You will also be involved in a lot of group work as conducting research requires quite a bit of work, so in working with people it helps alleviate the stress of one big project. Working in a group also allows for you to hone your communication skills, as everyone differs in the way they communicate and interact with people. If you cannot effectively communicate with the members of your group to complete a task, it will be exceedingly difficult to work with others in a professional setting.
A DIFFERENT APPROACH
COM 200 is the next step after you’ve decided that a major in Communication Studies is something you really want to pursue. Here’s where my mistake comes in. I put the same amount of effort into COM 200 as I did COM 105, which was a big “no-no”. You must have even more effective communication with your group members when it comes to this course. Everything regarding projects should be communicated with them and you must always participate in group meetings. If you have to re-organize your schedule to make a group meeting, then that’s what needs to happen. Your participation in both COM 105 and COM 200 will make or break you in your journey as a COM Studies major. When the professor prompts you to speak to your neighbor, do so. Talk to someone new every time in order to gain communication experience. This will also improve your ability to find and interact with your group members as the class progresses.
BE ACTIVE ON CAMPUS ALWAYS
While it’s not required to get involved in campus events or to join any clubs, do it anyway. One of my biggest regrets was not getting involved with more clubs or attending the many events the university has to offer. One of the great things about the COM Department is that there are many opportunities for interaction outside of the classroom. There is even a week-long event called COM Studies Week which is full of events orchestrated by the department as well as your fellow peers. There are activities to participate in and the occasional guest speaker that gives helpful advice on various topics that you could utilize in your college and professional career. Some of the different clubs within the department consist of individuals you might see in some of your own COM courses. One of these clubs is the Communication Studies Society, or CSS, which allows for networking opportunities among other opportunities. UNCW Student Media allows for hands-on interaction with the arts and media and finally, TealTV allows students to try their hands at all broadcast journalism has to offer including taking on various roles.
Another one of my most “regertful” decisions was the lack of involvement in an internship. UNCW offers plenty of opportunities for internships, and as a COM major, you will have access to the weekly newsletter, which highlights the different internship opportunities offered. Even your professors are active in making their students aware of internships they come across that would benefit their students specifically. An internship is exceedingly beneficial because it could make you stand out amongst your peers and even help advance your career. By being involved in an internship, you’ve already been able to utilize the skills you obtained at university in a professional setting. At the internship, you are given the opportunity to network and see what’s available for you after you receive your degree. There’s also the opportunity to add to the list of references for when you get ready to embark on your own quest for a professional career. You might even do so well in the internship that they offer you a position within their company after you graduate. An internship will only expand your horizons!
BROADEN YOUR HORIZONS
Integrated marketing communication, or IMC, happened to be my main focus during my time at UNCW. I was intrigued by all that goes into directing a marketing campaign or brand like the organization, research, and the ability to create your own designs. It was also interesting to find out how brands get to know their audiences and how some brands are so successful in their marketing. While IMC is super interesting and provides for a lot of experience, broaden your choice of classes within the COM department. For example, the storytelling classes are good for individuals who love public speaking or want the opportunity to advance in this skill. There are also classes in which you can put your fantastic writing skills to use, like journalism. Some of the other classes deal with other aspects of communication like dealing with broadcasting, video, and film. While you may be interested in one topic, allow yourself to at least experience other courses in order to see all that the COM department has to offer before making a final decision.
INTERACT WITH YOUR PROFESSORS & COUNSELORS
Last but not least, develop relationships with your professors and counselors. Out of all your teachers, I’m sure there’s one who sticks out to you the most. Utilize them for assistance in some of your other classes relevant to their own. There’s a multitude of things they could help you with if you take the time to visit them during office hours. Developing a relationship with your instructors also gives you access to more opportunities. Maybe they have an event they’re in charge of for the university and are looking for student volunteers or speakers? Your interaction with the professor and utilization of resources would probably make you a top candidate. In addition to volunteer opportunities, references are another useful resource that comes with positive interactions with your professors.
Take advantage of your counselors as well. You are required to meet with them at least once a semester up until graduation, so you can track your progress and see what you need to do in terms of future courses. Rather than just doing your bi-annual meeting, maybe have a meeting a month to track your progress. This not only benefits you in mapping out your future, but it could also be beneficial for some of the assignments you are given. Most of our counselors are also professors in the department so if you need a quick once-over on an assignment, I’m sure they’d be happy to help and give you the best critique.
These are some of the things I wish I would’ve handled better when on my UNCW journey. I’m hoping the things I struggled to handle will be a breeze for you. Maybe after reading this, you won’t have to experience the same things I did. Just utilize your resources and buckle up for one of the greatest experiences in your life, good luck!