10 Lessons I Learned in the First Week of Classes

I apologize for my absence from the blogging world last week, but I have a good excuse. Last week marked the first week of the new semester—to be more specific, my last semester of college. While the first week of classes has a reputation for being “syllabus week,” I always find it to be extremely hectic, mainly because I haven’t established a routine. Those of you who know me well know my compulsive need for order and organization. Even though most of my time in the classroom was spent perusing syllabi and memorizing exam dates, I did learn some valuable lessons.

10. Take classes outside of your comfort zone. I’ve been trapped in the Mass Communication building for four semesters now, and while I’d grown accustomed to it, I decided to venture across campus for a change of scenery and to “broaden my horizons.” This semester I’m taking three classes that deal with world perspectives including International Relations, World Conflict, and Great Literature of the World. While I’ve always been interested in history, I’ve usually steered away from contemporary world politics, which seems to be a standard ideology for a large percentage of Americans. To enhance my knowledge about a this subject that I have limited knowledge on, I stepped out of my academic comfort zone and into these classes. So far, they’ve been really informative and intriguing and I’m interested in the material. Who would have thought?

9. Visit past professors whose classes you enjoyed. Sometimes, especially at a large university like the University of South Florida, it’s easy to lock away past semesters in a vault for minimal-to-no reference in the future. I highly discourage this. If you really enjoyed a class, let the professor know. It won’t make you look like a suck-up, it shows you have an interest in your education, which will set you apart from your peers. Besides this, professors are one of the best resources you have for your future as a professional. My professors are willing to talk to me about issues in PR, help me in the job search and relocation process, and evaluate my resume. I would not have made these connections if I didn’t take the time to visit them during their office hours. Just because the class ended doesn’t mean the academic relationship has to stop, too.

8. If you don’t know the person sitting next to you, introduce yourself. After growing very close with my classmates in the PR sequence, it was difficult for me to walk into a classroom where I didn’t know anyone. Instead of secluding myself before the start of class, I made small talk with the person next to me. Now, I have a new friend who happens to be a journalism major. You never know when that connection will benefit you in the future.

7. It’s okay to talk—even in a class with over 200 students. It can be nerve racking and intimidating, but it will help you become more comfortable with public speaking—something that I consider one of my weaknesses. Plus, if you have something to say, you should share it with the class. It only improves the quality of the class discussion for everyone.

6. Join PRSSA. Just do it. As a member of the executive board for USF’s chapter of PRSSA, I can’t stress how valuable this organization has been to my public relations education. From networking with both peers and professionals to gaining experience in the field, PRSSA has paved a path for me in public relations. I’ve seen a lot of my friends stop going to meetings because they are too busy and want some free time, but I highly encourage you to make the time for at least most of the meetings. If you can’t attend your chapter’s meetings because of work or internships, contact the executive board and offer your help for any projects they might be working on that require times that work with your schedule.

5. Make time for your friends. Another thing is to remember to have fun along the way. Professionals and former professors keep telling me to “have fun.” I know it seems like I’ve taken on a lot this semester, but I have set aside time when I refuse to schedule any events/meetings/study sessions so that I can make plans with my friends and family. Even though you want to build your resume and land that dream job, you won’t get far if you don’t learn to balance your time.

4. Carry around business cards. I definitely learned this the hard way. I was asked to attend a business meeting at the last minute, and as I was rushing out of the office I realized I had left my business cards at home. I figured it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, I could always just take down contact information as I needed it. Well, while I was eating I discovered the person I was meeting with had graduated with a PR degree and worked in New York, Chicago, Boston, and Washington, D.C.—all places I am interested in moving to after graduation. When she asked for my card, I was left coming up with excuses for not having them, which made me look unprofessional. From now on, I’ll be carrying these little guys with me everywhere I go. You never know who you’re going to meet. (I hate how clichés can be so right…)

3. Take pride in small victories. If you’re like me, you get upset when a big project has a few glitches, even if the main outcome is well-received and successful. Through my work with Student Government here at USF, I’ve learned to reward myself and my team for small victories. Each step in the right direction, no matter how small, only adds to the dynamic of the team, which makes for a better work environment.

2. Buy your books online—it’s worth the wait. I’m a broke college student who suffered at the hands of her college bookstore this month. I wish I had bought my books online so that I could eat something other than peanut butter and jelly sometime in the near future…

1. Let go of your routine. Sometimes it’s okay to just “go with the flow.” As I said at the beginning of this post, I used to have an obsession with schedules and routines. While I still live by deadlines, I’ve slowly deterred myself from having a set plan. With graduation rapidly approaching, I spent my winter break trying to formulate a plan that would have me big city-bound in May with a job and an apartment lined up, but the truth is, I don’t know where I’ll be on May 5, 2008. And, for the first time in my life, I’m okay with not knowing how the future is going to play out. This semester will be a time of change and growth, and I look forward to just going with the flow.

4 thoughts on “10 Lessons I Learned in the First Week of Classes

  1. Hi Meg, what a fantastic essay! It is this kind of great work that is going to take you far in your communications career. In a concise manner, you’ve encapsulated the joys, anxieties, and chaos that typified the budding professional’s life.

    Great work…as always!

  2. I’m glad to see you’re breathing a little easier these days. Have faith in your abilities! You’re the best person in our program, so I have no doubt you’ll go far no matter where life takes you.
    Just try to balance the hard work with some good old fashion luck- good things are coming your way.

    -And remember to fit in number 5, since I don’t see you in class everyday, anymore!

  3. Hi Professor Batchelor,

    Thanks for your kind words! Thanks for supporting me in my blogging endeavors.

    Hi Tory,
    Don’t worry, you can be my voice of reason who reminds me to uphold Number 5!!!

    Hi Les,
    I hope your students find some value in this! Feel free to share!

    Take care!
    Meg

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