2014, let’s see what you’re made of

Let’s start this off on an honest note: I debated for a pretty long time about whether or not I would write a synopsis of 2013/welcome to 2014 post. In terms of articles and things people talk about, it’s pretty high on the popularity list, hence I didn’t want to just be another post among the Facebook statuses, tweets, and other buzz you saw in the final days of December. In my defense, I’ve also had quite a bit happening in the last couple of weeks: going home for Christmas, best friends visiting the Windy City for almost a week before New Year’s Eve, winning the Orange Bowl, turning 23, and surviving the deathly Polar Vortex cold, also known as #ChiBeria (this last one is still up for debate). Now that the chaos has died down a little bit, here I am, nestled in my apartment in Old Town Chicago, watching the snow fall (once again) outside my window, and a Daisy Cutter in a coozie next to me. 2014, you look pretty dashing so far- besides the potential frostbite.

I find myself very fortunate to be the same age for practically an entire calendar year (does this make me weird?), so 2013 and 22 go synonymously for me. That being said, 22 brought a lot of ups and downs. There were the obvious big life events that happened: graduated college, moved to Chicago, got a job. But to me, what’s more important than the big moments is the details put in to them. And it’s the details that I want to remember about 2013, not the big events.

IMG_0106My final semester of my Senior year at Clemson was probably one of the hardest for me (yep, even harder than Freshman year) because, to me, it meant that change was coming. I have never, ever, been good with change. The idea of change- I am absolutely infatuated with it. But actually putting my feet on the ground and going through the motions is just something that is really hard on my soul, no matter how much I crave it and no matter how good it is for my well-being. However, even though it was a hard one, that final semester Senior year was probably my favorite one, filled with incredible memories with amazing people.

It is this fear of change that kept me at Clemson for a month after graduating. No plans, zero to little money- just me watching all of my friends pack up their things and move onto the next chapter in their lives. Don’t get me wrong- that was a pretty good month. There was a lot of sleeping in ’til who knows when, sitting at the pool for who knows how long, and taking ridiculous road trips to who knows where with my fellow vagabond Melissa, who stuck around for that month in Finley with me, thank goodness. But at the same time, it was extremely terrifying. This time, I knew that change was imminent: it needed to happen.

IMG_1752Flash-forward two months and I am driving 13 hours to Chicago in a rental sedan packed with everything I could manage to fit. Did I have a plan? Nope. Was I terrified beyond all belief? You betcha. But it was the most excited I had ever been for anything in my entire life. I couldn’t count on two hands how many people told me I was crazy for doing what I did, but it is probably the proudest I have ever been of myself. This was something I did not need to do; I could have easily lived at home, saved some money, been comfortable in a city I already knew, and been completely fine. But, hey, where’s the fun in that? 

This is nothing against those who did something along those lines; to be quite honest, I commend you. However, for me, if I had done that I just know that I would not have been happy or fully satisfied. But you go, glen coco.

It hasn’t been a walk in the park; I will be the first one to admit that. There have been a lot of rough days where I have wanted to give up and take the first flight home. I even reserved floor space at one of my friend’s apartments in DC in the event that that might happen. But I will say one thing- having the extreme fortune to live with one of my most cherished friends in this city that we both used to call home when we were younger has made this process so much better than it could have been. I’ll say it once, and I’ll say it again- the life that Laura and I lead would make an extraordinary reality show.

So, again, here I am on January 9th, freshly 23 years old, fully employed, and feeling like a true Chicago-an, meaning I am freezing to death walking to work every morning in -11 degree weather. In all seriousness, I’ve come pretty damn far from the girl who stayed in Clemson because she was too terrified of what would happen next, and it’s hard to believe it’s only been 7 months since then.

2014, I’m pretty jazzed to see what you have in store for me. I learned quite a bit more about myself than I thought I would last year, so, swing away- I’m sure I can handle it.

PS- I’ve included my Spotify playlist that was never very far from me during June-December of 2013. There’s a lot of John Mayer on it, sue me.

What I Want To Be Now That I’ve Grown Up

As a recent college graduate, here’s how a typical conversation goes upon just being introduced to someone new:

“Ah, Communication Studies. So, what do you plan to do with that degree, actually?”
“In a nutshell, I hope to go into social media, marketing, advertising, digital media, editorial content….”
“That’s a little ambitious, don’t you think?”

And you know what- no, I don’t believe there is such a thing as ‘too ambitious.’ My four years in college taught me that lesson. Well, maybe not the first two years, but once that switch flipped my junior year, I knew that I was starting to figure it out. Figuring what out, exactly, I wasn’t too sure of then. Fortunately, I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of what direction I’m headed in these days. All this being said, my brain rarely ever stops being in overdrive (with the exception to two occasions: driving with the windows down, and being near any large body of water), and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I grew up thinking I wanted to write for a magazine. I imagined that I would be the next editor-in-chief of my own fashion magazine, and it would be just like the movies. There was one problem with this scenario: I am completely blind when it comes to fashion. No, seriously, I can barely dress myself. I am fortunate to be friends with two of the most fashionable people I have ever met: Lauren, my roommate of two years (THANK GOD), and Laura, my future roommate (!!!). They are the only reason I look even halfway decent when I walk out the door. So, my dreams of working in the fashion industry quickly faded, but my love of writing held steadfast.

Fast-forward to college. I knew that since writing was very much a part of who I was, I needed to continue my education in the field. English major? Nah, I don’t really see myself becoming the next J.K. Rowling (not that I’ve thrown that out the window completely…). Ideally, I would have majored in journalism, but, unfortunately, Clemson did not have that as an option. Even as I sit here and write this, I am so thankful that Clemson didn’t have a journalism degree, because, if they had, I would not have discovered my love for my field: communications. I decided to major in communication studies because I knew that writing was a part of the curriculum, but I really wasn’t sure what else the program would offer me.

After my first two years of general education classes, figuring out who I was, yada yada yada, I started to get bored. Don’t get me wrong, I was having a blast. I was probably having too much fun, actually. But professionally and mentally, I just wasn’t satisfied. I needed experience, so I went and got some. I started writing for The Black Sheep, a national and local college newspaper that focused on things that they believed college students to be interested in: mainly alcohol and food. I wrote about flasks, fast food, and being a fiscal college student, all with a dash of sarcasm and witty humor. I loved it, but it was easy. So, I began to write for The Tiger, Clemson’s student newspaper. Again, I wasn’t writing the hard-hitting news stories, but I didn’t want to. I stuck to what I was good at: Super Bowl commercials and Saturday Night Live sketches. It was safe to say that I wasn’t bored anymore, but I had been bitten by the bug of wanting more.

Remember that farfetched dream I had of being the editor-in-chief of a magazine? Yeah, well that’s what I did next. I founded and ran Clemson’s chapter of Her Campus, the nation-wide online magazine for collegiate women. I am absolutely so proud of the work I did with Her Campus Clemson; creating something from nothing, recruiting and managing a team of writers, running all social media accounts, and working with other organizations and businesses to create promotions and spread the word about HC Clemson. This experience was one of the most rewarding things for me because it was the first time I took matters into my own hands and didn’t really accept no for an answer. After being turned away from so many other opportunities to get involved on Clemson’s campus, I used the rejection I received as fuel for my fire. The year that I spent as Editor-In-Chief of HC Clemson, it was the only thing I could talk about. I lived and breathed HC Clemson because I wanted everyone else to be just as passionate about it as I was. Whether it was pushing out content via any and all social media accounts, speaking at club meetings across campus, or skipping my tailgating time to host gameday giveaways, I was bringing the voice of Her Campus Clemson to the masses, and I wouldn’t have traded this experience for the world.

In the summer of 2012, I was also fortunate enough to have two incredible internships, both in fields I was really excited to explore. Again, at this point in my life, I was still trying to figure out what direction I was headed in; I knew it was communications, but what facet? Where was my niche? Would I ever truly find out where I was headed? [cue dramatic music] First, I interned as a hospitality intern for The Memorial Tournament, and you can learn all about my experience in this blog post. In addition to everything stated in that blog post, I truly learned so much about hospitality, customer satisfaction, and working with a team to create a seamless and smooth experience for the tournament patrons. My second internship was with the advertising agency White+Partners, where I served as the Media and Account Management intern. Prior to this internship, I knew that I had an interest in advertising (see previous blog post), but I wasn’t sure of how much I would enjoy it from the other side of the curtain. As the Media Intern, I was able to learn the nitty gritty details of what went into advertising and the process of working with various media outlets, whether it be radio, digital, print, or television. I was also introduced to the Account Management side, which involved working directly with clients and serving as the liaison between clients and the rest of the agency.  I was just so excited to dive in and experience all facets of the advertising industry; I never turned down an opportunity to get more involved with the agency and I ended up coming away with invaluable experience and knowledge. I am truly grateful for these two summer internship opportunities.

Throughout all of these experiences, I was (not-so-secretly) having a love affair with social media. Something about social media is just so glamorous to me, and I hope that never fades. To me, social media is just so incredible not because it introduces an entirely different angle of marketing and reaching the consumer; social media humanizes corporations and turns consumers into brand ambassadors. In short, no company today will be reaching its full potential without a social strategy, or at least online presence. Once I started to feel as though I was an expert on social media from the consumer standpoint, I wanted to try my hand at the other side of the curtain. I created the Twitter account @ClemsonGirlProb back in October of 2011, and have now garnered close to 5,000 followers. The purpose of this Twitter handle was initially for me to further my obsession with social media, but it quickly turned into much more than that. I started doing a lot of trial and error to see what worked and what didn’t work in terms of reaching my targeted audience, and I am proud to see that I reached over 3,500 followers before I let anyone know that I was the person behind the anonymous Twitter account. I figured out a specific voice for the Twitter handle, and I stuck to it. I made it a priority to use this profile to serve as a source for all Clemson female (and some male) fans for consistent and relevant information and commentary on what was going on in the Clemson community. It was from this experience that I learned how human social media is, and that there is no “9-5” time scale for it to be constricted to. I learned that social media is a never-ending conversation, and that in order to be successful at social media, you need to constantly be plugged in and listening to your audience in order to respond properly. In addition to @ClemsonGirlProb, I also responded to the rise of the #WhatShouldWeCallMe Tumblr accounts and created one specific for Clemson students, #WhenInClemson. As rewarding as it was for me to see my friends posting links to this account on their Facebook pages without realizing that it was me, it was even more rewarding to track the page visits using Google Analytics. At the height of the Tumblr page, I was seeing upwards of 10,000 clicks per day, and several times I had to take a step back and realize what was happening.

This is when it dawned on me: I loved interacting with audiences, no matter what the platform. Whether it be through advertisements that consumers would see, hear, watch; content being pushed out via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and other social networking sites that users could interact with by making viral or responding to; and, of course, just general interaction with people about something you are passionate about.

My love for social media lead me to many great things at Clemson. First, I was grateful to have earned the position as the first ever Social Media Intern for the Clemson University Division of Student Affairs. This experience only furthered my passion for all things social media and really continued to open my eyes as to how social media can be used to reach audiences. Since Clemson is something that I am passionate about, it was really rewarding for me to be able to combine two of my biggest passions in a professional setting and to see my ideas come to fruition. My experience in social media continued as I completed two creative inquiries with Clemson’s own Social Media Listening Center, a gift given to Clemson University by Dell and Radian6. During my time working with the SMLC, it really hit me how extremely vital social media is in today’s rapidly expanding society, and having the opportunity to work with the Radian6 technology was truly an honor that I am very fortunate to have been given.

During my last year as a Clemson student, I knew that I wanted to get just a little more experience. By this time, I had finally figured out what I enjoyed doing, and I couldn’t have found a more perfect position for me. My senior year, I had the esteemed privilege to serve as Chipotle Mexican Grill’s Student Brand Ambassador for Clemson University. Yes, that’s right; I was getting paid to spread the Chipotle love to the Clemson community. I read something once that said to “figure out what you love to do without getting paid, and that is what you should be doing for the rest of your life.” Well, to say that I am obsessed with Chipotle Mexican Grill is an understatement, so I knew that I could not pass this opportunity up. As I told the regional marketing manager during my interview, even if they didn’t give me the official title, I would still promote Chipotle and be an asset to their brand new Clemson location. Since the chain is not very prominent in the South (read: I went to Chipotle everyday after high school, my friends from the South did not), I felt that it was my responsibility, long before Clemson even had a Chipotle, to introduce the wonderful world of Chipotle Mexican Grill to my fellow peers. Once I got the job, however, it became official. I was constantly tweeting, posting on Facebook, handing out promotion cards, speaking at organization’s chapter meetings, and just spreading my love for Chipotle to everyone around me, especially those that were new to Chipotle and their mission of ‘Food With Integrity.’

So, here I am. A college graduate, ready for life’s next big adventure. I am headed to Chicago and I can’t wait for the next chapter of my life to begin. But, in response to the question posed to me at the beginning of the blog post, here’s what I plan on doing with my degree in Communication Studies: creating content and streamlining it to audiences. My passion for social media and marketing, combined with my natural tenacity and curiosity, make me an absolute asset to a team in a fast-paced work environment.

I’m finally grown up, and I couldn’t be more excited. Adulthood is supposed to be fun, right? Well, if that’s wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

PS- If you made it through this entire post, I commend you.

It’s Just Senior Year…No Pressure.

So here we are, back at school, ready to begin our last and final year of collegiate learning. Classes have been going strong for about almost two weeks, we’ve all settled in, and fall is under way. Hell, we’ve even already got a football game under our belt (war damn who?)! All of this can only lead to one thing, right? Anxiety.

A midst all the craziness between getting back to school, moving back into my apartment, getting an internship, sorority recruitment, and classes starting, you would think that now that everything is settled down it would be a cakewalk. Nope; not for me. I find myself constantly feeling like there is something I should be doing that I’m not, or that there is a certain way I am supposed to feel that I’m not. Yes, I actually just said that. No, I am not trying to be dramatic. It’s the truth. With the title ‘Senior Year’ comes a lot of pressure. Everyone tells you that your senior year is going to be the “best year yet!” so I feel like my every action or inaction needs to hold true to that statement; it has to be the best one yet of anything I have ever done. Is any of this even making sense?

Wait, are you telling me I need to have a job after this year? What, are you kidding? That actually gives me negative anxiety [Disclaimer: I have absolutely no job lined up and should probably be stressed about this.] I don’t particularly know how else to describe it. I just have this daunting feeling that a lot is riding on this senior year. We’ve all seen the movies, heard our parents’ stories, etc.

So this is officially our last ride around the block. Let’s make it count. Cheers.

How to Halloween

They’ve got the group costume and the slut factor down to a science.

It’s that time of year again, folks. You know, the time when girls all dress as slutty as possible and get away with it; guys throw on a sombrero and call themselves a Mexican; it’s Halloween! If you’re in college, you know the drill already. If you’re a freshman, get ready for the best holiday you will experience during your college career. If you’re in high school, everything I’m about to type still applies; you all dress like sluts everyday so what difference does it make.

If you’re a girl, you have several options:

  • You can go the obvious route and dress like a skank; literally decide what you want to be for Halloween and then subtract half of the outfit. Pretty simple. Worried about getting drunk and wearing heels at the same time? Yeah, so is everyone else. But it’s HALLOWEEN for; you won’t look like a slut if you don’t wear heels. Suck it up.
  • If you’re trying to steer clear of the skank territory, you can always dress cute. There is nothing wrong with that, except that you’ll definitely be attracting a whole different slew of guys than your friend with the push-up bra on. The only problem with dressing cute is that people might expect you to go trick-or-treating; AKA you’ll look like you’re the ripe age of 7 years old. Again, nothing wrong with that. This is coming from the girl who wears bows in her hair on a daily basis. But it’s your call.
  • There’s also the option of ordering a costume or picking one up from Party City. My rule for this is that you are only allowed to do this once while you are in college. It doesn’t matter which year, it doesn’t matter what you dress as, but purchasing an already skankified costume with thigh high socks? Yeah it’s a one time deal. Yes, I have done this already. I was a slut version of Alice in Wonderland freshman year. Now that’s a combination of skank + cute if I’ve ever seen one.
  • Have a boyfriend? Does he normally do things you want him to do? If you answered yes to both of these, loosen the reigns a little bit, alright? Regardless, if he’s willing, you can always do a joint costume. Famous couples are really fun and show that you put a lot of effort into your costume, but don’t go absolutely nuts with this one. A perfect example of a couple costume was what my friend Hayleyand her boyfriend Brennan did last year: they dressed as an old couple, as in grandma and grandpa. Absolute perfection.

    The party don’t start ’til I walk in.
  • Still have no idea what to dress as? Get your friends together and do a group costume. No matter what the group is, people are still going to notice and they are still going to love it. The Spice Girls have been done every single year, yet the girls dressed up as them always get high praise for how good their costume is. Even a set of Crayola Crayons is a great group costume. CRAYONS PEOPLE, NOT THAT EXCITING.
  • My honest opinion: be something funny. Dress as something you feel comfortable telling people that you’re dressed as. For example, my sorority had a Calendar Themed crush party and my date and I went as Father’s Day. I wish I was kidding. Obviously, it was all my idea. I dressed as a child and he dressed as, well, my father. Thank you, Trey, for not abandoning me as a friend that night. My point being, I was not comfortable telling people that my date was dressed as my dad. My best costume, thus far in my life, is most definitely Ke$ha. And people thought it was funny, at least I hope, because I have an unhealthy obsession for the drunken pop star and it made the perfect costume for Halloween: Ke$ha actually is a drunk mess, so I would only living up to the costume, DUH.
Fellas, I literally am at a loss for words as to what to tell you to dress like. Y’all dress up as the STUPIDEST costumes and somehow still manage to make it work. I mean, really, a dinosaur? No. Someone at our mixer last night was dressed up as the little fat Asian boy scout from ‘Up!’. I can guarantee he went home with a girl last night. Even dressed as a small child. My only suggestion to the male species as a whole for Halloween is to be funny. Personally, I think fraternity pledges always have the best costumes. Frat-stars, take note: I am more likely to talk to some guy dressed as a speed-bump than to someone dressed as a lax bro. One of my friends last year was a priest. Not only was it offensive in the best way possible when he was ripping shots, but he proceeded to say “I bless you” to people the entire night. Nicely done, George.

All in all, Halloween is one of the best times of the year. It’s one of those holidays that even when you’re 23 years old, you just can’t help wanting to dress up and show off your costume to everyone. Hell, I’ll still be THAT GIRL that dresses up when I have a professional job…like I’ll ever have a professional job. Parting words: live it up. Don’t be the lame friend that decides to be ‘over’ Halloween. You can never be ‘too into it,’ so live a little. I mean, COME ON PEOPLE, the holiday is all about free candy. WHO DOESN’T LOVE FREE CANDY AND DRESSING HOWEVER THE HELL YOU WANT TO?!