By Shelby Watson
New World, New Opportunity
When I first entered college, I was overwhelmed. The prospect of meeting so many new people, learning in a new environment, and finding my place at UNCW felt intimidating. I knew what I liked (writing, visual art, and film) and I knew how to be successful in the classroom, but I didn’t know much about how to connect with like-minded people. I turned to my RA for advice about navigating the beginning of college, and she offered me advice that I would offer to anyone starting something new: try anything and everything that interests you.
So, I did. I took entry-level classes for majors I was interested in. I explored different clubs at involvement carnivals. I learned about opportunities for student employment on campus. Through these means, I could take what I already knew about myself and apply it to the organizations around me. I joined Flicker Film Society to explore my interest in filmmaking, ACE to become more involved in campus entertainment and event planning, took a film class for non-majors, and took a beginning creative writing course.
Failure is the Best Option
Though these opportunities were great, I soon learned a lot of them were not for me. I stopped going to meetings for Flicker and ACE. I had previously thought I was going to double major in Film Studies and Creative Writing, but I learned that the creative writing department might not be my place. I quickly learned that trying new things is a great way to explore, but it’s important to remember that not everything will be your thing.
I didn’t let the fact that I hadn’t quite found my place yet stop me from continuing to explore. In the spring semester of my freshman year, I joined a brand new club on campus called Creative Arts Club. It was a place where artists could come together to practice any medium they were interested in and create multimedia projects. I applied to become a Writing Consultant at the Learning Center because I loved writing, and I loved helping people. I explored majors and major requirements online and discovered that the Communication Studies department offered a range of classes covering topics I was interested in. I was beginning to find places where I felt I belonged on campus, and it wouldn’t have been possible had I not tried something else first.
Once I had found the places I was most comfortable, I could begin to build my network. I met some great people interested in the same things as me in the Film Studies and Communication Studies departments. I met artists interested in different yet complimentary forms of art in the Creative Arts Club. I met writers who were just as excited about the craft through my work at the Learning Center. Through these new networks, I was becoming more comfortable both at UNCW and with who I was becoming.
Then, everything changed. Spring semester of my sophomore year saw the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. We all left campus, moved everything online, and locked ourselves in our houses for months. My network felt like it was being cut off; No more in-person connection with friends and professors, no more Creative Arts Club, no more in-person Learning Center staff meetings or getting to work as closely with students. After a long summer of feeling like opportunities had quickly vanished, I decided I was still going to try anything and everything I could as my junior year started. I realized that I couldn’t let the fact that something may be hard stop me from trying anyways.
I took on a leadership position with Creative Arts Club as the secretary and social media manager. I attended every virtual staff meeting and advanced through a new level of tutor certification with the Learning Center. I got to meet new professors I connected with and take classes that helped me learned about my future career path over Zoom, despite my initial apprehension. One of my Film Studies professors even strongly encouraged me to pursue a film internship while everything remained virtual. Otherwise, I would not have had the money or ability to travel to LA to work for this production company. In this way, I actually found opportunity through the obstacles placed before me. I knew that I should never stop looking for opportunity, even in the worst of times.
New Things Become Old Things & Old Things Become New Things
From my job as a Writing Consultant to becoming President of Creative Arts Club to finding a career path I want to pursue that utilizes both my Film Studies and Communication Studies knowledge, the opportunities I have chosen to pursue in college have all helped me build up to where I am today. It is because I chose to explore and learn about myself that I have built a network of like-minded people and developed skills that will help me in the next chapter of my life. I know that I will feel the same sense of intimidation when I enter the work force as I did when I entered college, but I know now that taking the opportunities presented to me will make all the difference in my personal and professional growth.