By Jess Carnprobst
As I drove away from Athens after orientation, I watched the bricks fade in my rearview mirror. I was overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation and I knew I had made the right decision and that these upcoming years were going to be some of the most incredible years of my life. I had no idea what they were going to entail, but I sure was eager to find out.
Move-in day couldn’t come soon enough; I had more excitement in me than the energizer bunny! Even though I was crammed next to all of my belongings, I couldn’t stop smiling for the entire four-hour car ride to Athens. I couldn’t wait for this new and unknown experience.
After hours of moving and rearranging, my room was finally put into place, and it was time for my parents to leave. I was ready to start this new adventure and experience new things. I was beyond excited to be a Bobcat, so naturally I strutted through all the activity fairs in my new OU clothes. I signed up for at least thirty clubs with the intent to join them all. I was set on magazine journalism, so I signed up for countless magazines. Then, for some reason, I chose to sign up for PRSSA. I didn’t really know much about public relations yet, but I figured if I was signing up for everything, I might as well put my name down for this one, too. PRSSA seemed interesting and I wanted to know more about public relations. What’s one more club in the scheme of things, right? Little did I know that simply putting my name and email down for one extra club would change my entire freshman year for the better.
During the first few weeks of school, I found myself running like a crazy woman trying to make it to all the meetings for the countless organizations I had signed up for. I wanted to be involved in any and every way that I could. Thankfully, I was going to the PRSSA meetings every Monday, and chose to sign up to receive a mentor. I was paired with Melaina Lewis, who is similar to me in a lot of ways. She gives amazing advice, and helped me in more ways than I could have even imagined. Without her, I wouldn’t have had the guiding hand that I needed to get involved in PRSSA and try new things. I went to Melaina for advice very frequently; she helped me with the big and little things. She even helped me narrow down my clubs by suggesting that I focus in on each one for a week. I took her advice and I quickly noticed which clubs I seemed to fit in with and which ones I could live without. I came to the decision that it is not as much about the quantity as it is the quality. I decided it would be best to choose a few clubs and give them my all so I narrowed it down to PRSSA, Backdrop magazine and the women’s crew team.
Throughout my first semester, I was still set on magazine journalism, however, I learned a lot about public relations through PRSSA and all of the outstanding members. I learned that there is so much more to public relations than I ever thought there could be. After each meeting I always came home happy and full of new things to share with friends. But it wasn’t until second semester that I realized how much I was enjoying PRSSA and public relations.
I injured my knee rowing, so I had to sit out at practices at the beginning of second semester. I soon realized that without getting up early to practice every morning, I was focusing on my schoolwork and things that related to my future. I learned a lot from joining the rowing team, for example, determination and motivation. I had never joined a more intense sport, so it was an eye opening adjustment for me. However, I felt that I had already learned what I was meant to learn from crew, and that it was time to move on to different experiences. I was getting more and more interested in the public relations side of things, so I decided to trade crew for more time with PRSSA and ImPRessions.
I made it my goal second semester to dive into each of these clubs and really give each one all of my effort. It was after a few weeks into my second semester and multiple calls home to my parents raving about how amazing PRSSA was that I realized it was time to re-think my path. I experienced the most amazing feeling after coming home from each one of my meetings. This is the feeling that I want to be able to have every day for the rest of my life. I want to truly enjoy my job, which is why I decided to switch to the strategic communications track.
During second semester, I put a lot more effort into the PR and social media committee and the social affairs committee. I wanted to do everything I could in PRSSA and gain as much experience as possible. Also, it never hurts to build your portfolio! I networked more during second semester after the PRSSA meetings by reaching out to people who gave out their contact information. I also attended the regional conference and had one of the best Saturdays of the year. I had so much fun and was able to take away so much from just one day!
As the weeks passed, I would get more and more excited to go to our weekly meetings. I read the speaker’s bio before coming, and did as much research as I could so that I would have some background knowledge. When I say I got into these meetings, I really mean it. Half of the time, I couldn’t even wipe the cheesy grin off of my face.
A week after I received my summer internship, I was chosen as the Scripps PRSSA spotlight member of the week, a.k.a. one of the best weeks of my freshman year. I ran around my room for at least a half hour beaming from ear to ear for being noticed. I was so excited to have an internship after my freshman year and to have been noticed by the outstanding members of PRSSA.
At the Scripps end-of-the-year banquet, I received the outstanding freshman of the year award. It was that night that I became 500% certain that I was choosing the right track. I suddenly became certain that every single decision that I made this year was the right one, because it led me to PRSSA and public relations. I don’t think I have ever felt so sure in my life that this was where I was meant to be. I made a promise to myself that night that I was going to continue to stay involved in PRSSA for the next three years. I had the most amazing experiences and met so many outstanding members in just one year, and I want to continue that for the rest of my college career. I went to bed that night with a feeling of certainty and pride, along with a huge smile on my face.
Now that I am back home and keep getting the famous question, “How was your first year of school?” I can answer with one simple word: “amazing.” That word wraps up my entire experience. I don’t know how else to explain all the little things that make me laugh at three in the morning, or the big things that have redefined who I am as a person. Thanks to all the people and experiences that I have been blessed with, I have had one of the best years of my life. I have found who I am and the person that I want to become. Now that I have found my place amongst many great people in the field of my dreams, I can’t wait to see what next year brings!