Advice from an upcoming undergraduate of UNCW

By Devin Bircheat

(Photo from UNCW Map & Directions)

Five years, three-degree changes, and two colleges later, I have nearly made it towards the finish line of obtaining my communication studies degree. As a Fall ‘19 transfer student, my UNC Wilmington experience has been anything but traditional as I have learned to navigate my way through UNCW asynchronously. Finding a community in a new town, with new friends, and a new way of living due to the pandemic has been interesting, to say the least. I can’t say it’s been easy, but I can say that there have been pieces of advice that have been helpful as I have adjusted.

(Photo by David Maslaka, Best of the Web)

“The real world.”

One of the best pieces of advice I got was to quit thinking so far ahead about “the real world” and omit that from my vocabulary (thank you, COM 400). We often hear that the next step in our journey and the things we are doing in school are not “real” since they are not directly accompanied by a job. However, the projects and assignments we are doing in school to prepare ourselves for this so-called real world are still very much real. This mindset helped me to stay present in what I am doing.

It is easy to get caught up and feel stuck if you haven’t quite gotten that internship yet or a job that is in the field you wish to be in and deem that as not having experience. The things that you are doing in your COM classes are real, so work hard and take pride in your projects because they account for so much more than in the classroom. This is also something that you can put on your resume as experience!

Sometimes you have to realize what you don’t like to realize what you do like.

I have notoriously changed my degree to the point it became a running joke in my family that I was going to be a professional student when I got older. Beginning as an Elementary Education major at UNC Charlotte, I quickly realized that I did not have the patience and passion to run a classroom as I had imagined. Then, I ventured to become a psychology major, where I suddenly learned that just because I enjoyed watching true crime did not mean that I should be a forensic psychologist. This has landed me where I am right now, as a communication studies major.

The communication studies department at UNCW gave me tools to be well equipped in writing, critical thinking, marketing, and media. The media and communication job market are at an all-time high right now and is constantly growing. I have ventured into other communication studies focus areas such as journalism, but the Integrated Marketing Communication area is what stuck with me because of the collaborative and innovative environment.

(Photo from the Career Center by Cerro Coso Community College)

What do you want to be when you get older?

Ah, the question we all dread. With graduation coming around the corner, it is easy to get wrapped up in the pressure of finding a job, where to move, and perhaps loans to pay back. Some people are clear on the next step in their life, however, this can be an exciting yet scary phase of life. Sometimes you are completely sure what you want to do, sometimes you are completely sure what you want to do for a period of time, and sometimes that changes.

It’s okay if you aren’t sure what you want to be when you grow up because you are still growing up. However, there are some opportunities and tools that I have used that have guided me in what to do post-graduation. It is important to take advantage of the career center and opportunities during COM studies week. Handshake has been a very helpful tool that has quizzes that you can take and job opportunities that are being posted. There are also mock interviews that you can do because interviewing is a skill that you can acquire through doing more interviews. The career center is also accessible to UNCW alumni. Networking is an important part of taking the next step after graduation, and a great way to do so is by looking on Handshake and LinkedIn to build connections.

My experience at UNCW has taught me to adapt – adapt to changes, new experiences, and new ways of learning and be open to them.