This blog is written by Ellie Jesse, our Campus Ambassador from UNC-Chapel Hill. Ellie is a junior transfer student studying public relations at the School of Journalism.
After I decided to transfer schools mid-way through my junior year of college, I realized that in order to qualify as a transfer student at UNC, I had to take a semester off. At first I was bummed because taking a semester off was not the “traditional” thing to do. In my mind, I always pictured myself finishing college in four years, at the same university, graduating on time. But than again, when was I ever known to follow a straight path.
After completing a 6-month internship in New York City at Peppercom, I would say my time was more than well spent. Whether it’s your decision to take a semester off or other factors have required you to take some time off of school for a while, why not make the best of it! Here are some do’s and don’ts to consider when thinking about taking time off of school:
Get an internship. DUH! Why wouldn’t you? Taking a semester off is the perfect chance to have an extended internship in a field that you are interested in learning more about. As opposed to a 3-month summer internship, you are more flexible to take on big, long-term projects that will boost your experience, portfolio and resume.
Create an Online Presence: Take this time to build yourself up online. Start conversations through Twitter, blog about your internship, create an online portfolio and resume that you can update as you go along.
Network network network: Learn about your coworkers. During my internship, not only was I able to become more immersed in the day-to-day office environment, but I had a longer time frame to learn more about the people I worked with. I went to a Met’s game, participated in the office NCAA bracket pool, and went to happy hour with my coworkers.
Do nothing: The worst thing you can do is waste a semester when you can be out there getting experience. If you can’t find an internship, make opportunities for yourself. Offer to be in charge of social media at your part-time job, volunteer your free time to an agency, anything it takes to get something on your resume.
Stop Learning: You can read as many textbooks as you want, but experience is something you can’t buy in a bookstore. Ask questions, be curious and take in everything you can. Everything I learned at my internship has been applicable to concepts that I am learning in the classroom at UNC.
Lose Touch: Keep in touch with professors, campus organizations, and other people from your school. Keep up the communication so that you can share with them your experiences. I wrote to one of my professors and told her how much her class prepared me for PR writing. People want to hear about what you are doing, so tell them!
While taking a semester off is not a traditional path, who says it can’t be beneficial to your career down the road? For me, it landed me a position as a freelancer for Peppercom. Real world experience is invaluable, even if it means straying off the straight and narrow path to follow your passion.