This is a guest post from my current campus ambassador and former summer intern, Kayla Stevens. Kayla attends the University of South Florida.
Slacker, unmotivated and Super Seniors are some of the many adjectives used to describe college students who do not graduate within the average allotted time of four years; however, this isn&t always a negative thing. I am one of the many students who are in their fifth year of college and I have had both positive and negative experiences.
The problem with being a fifth year senior, or a "Super Senior," is that it has a negative reputation because students who can&t seem to graduate in four years, are seen as lazy and apathetic. But, there are plenty of reasons why students might not graduate on time. In my case, I transferred schools, not just once, but twice. Other students change their major, which can put you back more than just one semester. Some students have to pay bills and rent, while working two or three jobs and studying as a full-time student. Regardless of the reasons, no student should be looked down upon because they are gaining an education. The fact that any individual is in school is a success in itself.
The Journey: I graduated high school in 2006 and went off to college in the fall to Stetson University in Deland, Florida. I really enjoyed my first semester, because I was living a new life away from home and experiencing my individuality. But, when it came time for my second semester, I wasn&t as happy as I had hoped. My problem was that I hadn&t fully checked out Stetson before I committed, because I was so excited and overwhelmed with the fact that I was moving away from home.
The next fall, I decided to move to Gainesville, home of the Florida Gators, to attend Santa Fe College (formerly known as Santa Fe Community College). At first I was a little hesitant to attend a community college, but little did I know that I would encounter many great experiences. Not only was I a part of the institution’s transformation from a community college to a state school, but I also volunteered at the school paper doing graphic design and I landed my first (paid) internship!
Living in a college town was a completely different experience for me, but I really did have the time of my life. I was constantly meeting new people and finding new things to do. I was amazed with the fact that I rarely saw the same person twice in one day. After living in Gainesville for a year, my roommate and a friend of ours moved into a house that was located across from The Swamp (the football stadium). This house was super tiny, and far from perfect, but we made it work. It was the experience of living so close to where all the action took place on Saturdays, and not having to listen to obnoxious neighbors above us, that made it all worthwhile.
After a year and a half of living in Gainesville, I had attained my Associate of Arts degree and was left with a huge decision to make. The University of Florida was, and still is, a prominent school here in the south. It&s been a dream of mine to attend UF, but I knew that I didn&t have all of the qualifications that I needed to be accepted. So, I applied to other schools that I was interested in to finish my Bachelor&s degree. I applied to the University of Alabama, Hofstra University and other Florida schools.
Now I am attending the University of South Florida and only have a year left to go before I graduate! At first, I was really hesitant to attend a school that was so close to home, but I have begun to realize that there are lots of opportunities that I never knew existed. My first year back in my hometown, I lived in an apartment with my now, ex-best friend. You know how they say don&t live with your best friends? Well, it&s true. Anyways, our lease ended the following year and I decided to move back in with my family. I never thought I would EVER move back in with my parents, but it happened.
I have learned to make the best of it and have come to realize that living at home could be worse. Not only do I have free room and board, but I also get home-cooked meals and have 20 acres of land to play on. Furthermore, I have 24/7 doggy daycare for my dog!
Diversity: It&s hard to say how I will feel about all of my moves after I graduate college, but for now, I can justify my actions. There are many differences among all of the cities I have lived in. Deland is a small, quaint town with a school population of 2,000 and close to the beaches. Gainesville is strictly a college town and is surrounded by nothing, but it was still a great place to experience that time in my life. And Tampa, well, it&s home.
Learning: Everywhere you go, you learn something new. Whether it’s good or bad, these experiences help us to move on in life. Without going to Stetson, I would never have known that I prefer living in a city environment, with lots of different things to do. While living in Gainesville, I figured out what I wanted to do with the rest of my school career, as well as my future. I was given opportunities to showcase who I was and to be a part of events and companies, I would never have imagined.
Now I am living in Tampa and am the newly appointed Public Relations Officer for the University of South Florida&s Student Government. Back when I was applying for the position, it was just something I had heard about and figured why not go for it? After going through the interview process, I realized how important this position would be for me and my future. Although I have only been in the position for a month, I have already begun helping to plan and execute events that will put USF in the spotlight.
Obstacles: There is no doubt that I have faced various obstacles throughout this entire process, but that is just life. One specific example I want to mention (because I am very proud of the outcome), is the English Diagnostic Test that is required to get into the school of Mass Communications at USF. As it is, I am a nervous Nelly when it comes to taking tests, so taking one that determined whether I was able to pursue my major of choice was even more nerve-wracking. Long story short, I ended up taking this test SIX times! For most students, it takes several attempts to pass this exam, but believe it or not, it took me a whopping six! Of course, I was tempted to give up after the fourth or fifth time, because I thought to myself, "This is ridiculous,” but luckily, I decided to keep going.
The reason I share this story with you is because although it did take me six times to get a passing score, the point is that I was able to achieve the score I needed, and I am now en route to graduation. I was determined to get into the school of Mass Communications and I am now determined to graduate with a degree in Public Relations.
The Beginning to my Happy Ending: I am only a year away from graduating with my Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations, and every day I begin to see a brighter light at the end of the tunnel. Come May, I hope to have a job lined up in New York City, which has always been a dream of mine. I aspire to work for a fashion and celebrity based public relations firm, while also finding my niche in the industry. I have had thoughts of some day owning my own firm, but for now, I just want to learn and take it all in.
Advice: If there is one thing I hope you take away from this, it is to be yourself. It is important to do what makes you happy, and unimportant for others to know the reasons why you make the choices you do. Especially while we&re still young, this is our time to live through our mistakes and different ventures we decide to take. If you are unhappy with school, your job, an internship or whatever it may be, make sure to find out what it is that will make you happy and then go for it!