Similar to many college students, I work in the restaurant industry. Over the years I have been asked so many questions that I have learned not to be surprised by anything. Sometimes I get wrapped up in a conversation with a customer who wants to know everything about me, where I go to school and what I want to do with my life. The one question that never fails to surprise me is “Why are you studying communication at a STEM school?”
The question is fair, especially if the person asking knows NC State for its College of Engineering or athletics. Therefore, in my time at State, I have made it my responsibility to work hard to debunk the stereotype that you need to be focused on STEM at a mostly STEM school. My experience as a communication student has been the perfect balance of challenge and opportunity, and here’s why.
When I came to NC State in the fall of 2018, I found my place in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, studying communication. While I had no idea what was ahead of me, I did know that I only wanted to take the bare minimum of math and science classes! I would have traded my Geology 101 class (which was NOT “rocks for jocks” like I had been told), a five-minute walk from where I lived, for the trek across campus to the Court of North Carolina for my communication, journalism and English classes any day.
Then, in spring 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. I was finishing up my sophomore year coursework at my parents’ house, grieving what might have been a summer traveling or a high-profile internship, and scrambling to find something productive to fill my time. Spring 2020 reminds me of the restaurant slang “in the weeds.” The phrase is used to describe getting behind on a busy night, and at the time, that was exactly how I felt. In hindsight, I’m sure most everyone felt this way. But I was able to channel my “work harder” mentality inspired by a STEM school environment to help find opportunities in a doomed situation. I stayed connected to campus by writing for NC State’s student newspaper, Technician, and attending virtual events with my PRSSA chapter. When both organizations were seeking leadership for the next school year, I was ready to apply!
I couldn’t have imagined that some of my most influential experiences yet at NC State would occur during this time.
In May 2020 I was hired as a news editor for Technician and elected to the board of our PRSSA chapter. Two irreplaceable experiences I don’t believe would have been possible if everything was “normal.” Both the newspaper and PRSSA taught me more about what I wanted to do with my career than any summer internship could. I planned virtual events, networked and recruited new members to campus organizations in a time when most students were desperate for a connection to campus life. I helped lead a student newspaper through a pandemic entirely through Zoom calls while simultaneously becoming a stronger writer, student and leader. And, believe it or not, I was still able to make the most out of a summer in a pandemic!
While I was proud of the work I was doing, I learned that I didn’t want to be a news journalist. Inspired by my experiences with PRSSA, I decided I wanted to intern at a PR agency.
To anyone who asks me why I study communication at a STEM school, the answer is “why not?” The relationships and experiences I have gained at NC State have led me to so many opportunities, including finding Clairemont Communications.
Joining the Clairemont team this summer is the next exciting step on my career journey. I am eager to work alongside the Clairemont team and clients, gain industry knowledge and build confidence as an aspiring PR professional. Thank you, NC State, for getting me here, I wouldn’t have it any other way!
By Clairemont intern Anna Beth McCormick, a senior at NC State University.