Growing into a Graduate
By Alyssa Harrell, Quotes UCF
When I reflect upon my time at UCF, so many memories and experiences come to mind. But looking back, I wouldn’t trade anything for the lessons and skills I’ve learned while being a student at UCF. Four years ago, I moved two hours away from home to get the “real” college experience while still having the comfort of being able to drive home at a moment’s notice. Once I got here, I did what every student does. I lived on campus and walked to class every day in Orlando’s scorching summer heat. And when I wasn’t in class or studying, I spent time with acquaintances in my home town. Moving to a new city away from my family and close friends, I was very hesitant to branch out and meet new people. I thought to myself, “I’ve already made all these changes, why would I need to make more?”
I kept that notion in mind for the entirety of my freshman year. I was just beginning to be comfortable and was very satisfied with my school work. I didn’t really see the need for change. But just because there isn’t a clear need for change doesn’t mean it couldn’t make a world of difference. I began to learn this on my first day of class in Introduction to Public Relations. Although it wasn’t an abrupt change, it was the start of something. Back then I had no idea that just sitting in that classroom would truly change not only the rest of my academic career, but my life.
That first day was when I learned about a PR club called Quotes. At that time, I didn’t really want to join a club; I was on a sports team and a dedicated student, which led me to believe I didn’t have time for anything else. But the friendly girl who sat next to me asked if I would go to Quotes’ first event of the semester with her. I was a bit hesitant for a couple reasons: I didn’t really know if I would like PR, I didn’t think I had any spare time and I didn’t even know this girl’s name. But I had to sit next to her for the next hour, so to be polite and not make things awkward, I enthusiastically said yes. And from that moment on, Quotes provided a foundation for almost every academic and professional decision I made, and every experience and opportunity I was presented with.
I quickly went from a member of Quotes for one semester to a board member with an extremely important responsibility the next. Within one day I decided to interview for the position of director of events, got offered the position, and then represented Quotes as part of the executive board at a meeting. The girl that did all those things on one regular Tuesday was nothing like the girl who thought there wasn’t room for change in her life.
Now, not only was I able to be a student in one of the most competitive programs at UCF, I got to be a student leader. My job as director of events was to organize and execute Quotes’ premier event, Intern Pursuit. Intern Pursuit is a bi-annual communication internship fair that gives students the opportunity to meet with employers and search for internships. This event has about 80 organizations and over 200 students in attendance each semester. This is the main source for students to get an internship that will give them the chance to learn the skills they need to succeed in the real world. In a matter of one day I went from not wanting my comfortable college life to change to being the go-to person for an event that so many people depend on.
Now, as a graduating senior, I’ve planned and successfully executed five Intern Pursuits, each one better than the next. And during this time, I was involved and took advantage of more opportunities than freshman me would ever think there was time for. I’ve had multiple internships (each of which I obtained through Intern Pursuit), participated in research and made lasting relationships with professors, classmates and professionals. Through all these opportunities I was able to find my place. I’ve always been interested in healthcare and am now certain that is my place in the PR industry. I know that I thrive when I am able to use my skills to help others and tell their stories. Two years as an intern at AdventHealth made my inclination clear. This realization and many other opportunities led me to want to pursue a graduate degree. I’m so happy and honored to have been given the opportunity to attend USF in the fall to start research and my master’s in mass communications.
Because one opportunity turned into another, and another, and another, I have been so blessed to have what I see as the best college experience I could have hoped for. So now when I look back at all my memories and experiences, they all have one thing in common: Quotes. My success came not just from being a member, but by taking charge and being an overly active executive board member. Without Quotes, at graduation I would be sitting among my classmates, not knowing their names or what I was going to do after I walked across the stage. But I’m so thankful that because of Quotes, I get to walk across the stage knowing I made a difference, and exactly what I’m going to do next.