My initiative to write this article is to reflect on my experiences and to encourage you, my readers, to reflect on your studies and experiences, and plan your next step strategically. As a senior college student at Hollins University, I have completed three internships throughout my college life. My experiences with Peace Boat US in 2020, DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative in 2021, and The Estée Lauder Companies in 2022, have helped me become who I am today and encouraged me to continue exploring this world. One thing that I would love to share in this article is my realization of experiential learning.
The phrase "experiential learning" consists of both experience and learning. From the perspective of a college student, this phrase highlights the hands-on practice of what we learn -- something that is in our head. If we learn by experiencing something first-hand, by applying what is in our head to what we do, and by making the connection between theories and practices, we are discovering something new, beyond our imagination.
Chin Wai (Rosie) Wong, 2020
This January, I was honored to intern with The Estée Lauder Companies. In the meantime, I was reading the book Public Relations (2nd edition) by Tom Kelleher. It was not until reading this book that I realized the publics can be both internal and external. These publics, as defined in the book, are groups of people with a shared interest. With this understanding, the publics are the people who have a specific type of interest, and this interest allows these people to build a relationship with the organization. One of the major goals that Public Relations (PR) practitioners do is to create and maintain a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship between the publics and the organization. Combining the internship experience and the reading experience, I achieved a high point in my experiential learning journey. At the same time, there is something beyond that.
This experiential learning journey has cultivated in me the initiative and habit of self-study. I finished reading this book and organizing notes within a month, and the process involves my proactivity to read and continue reading. Even after a full workday, I felt a strong desire to keep reading, one chapter following another. I felt addicted to this book. Not only the content was easy to understand, but the up-to-date case studies and practical advice also helped connect readers to the real-world industry. At the same time, my internship with the Estée Lauder Companies allows me to see the overlaps between what is discussed in the book and what is practiced in this global prestige beauty company, as well as to practice what is encouraged for a PR practitioner. Reading the book was a joyful learning process and the combination of the reading and the internship is a true learning experience.
Chin Wai (Rosie) Wong, 2022
Another point I’d like to acknowledge is the importance of previous classes. Without prior knowledge, I probably would not be able to digest new information in the real world so efficiently, as I would not have time to critically understand what is before my eyes. I appreciate my professors for constantly encouraging us to push our boundaries by becoming critical thinkers and useful modern-age human beings. The process of turning raw data into useful knowledge that informs actions is one of the most important assets I have gained throughout my college life as a communication studies major.
As much as I love being in class and overcoming challenges, the classroom is not the only place to learn. I realize that studying in a college or university, or getting degrees, is not an end of itself, but it is rather a path that leads to another series of learning, that opens up to limitless possibilities, and that allows people who truly are passionate about knowledge to continue learning, practicing, and accomplishing. What I learn at school is not an end, but rather it is a preparation for a continuation of learning. A college equips me with the ability to study independently and the incentive to continue pursuing knowledge. These are also essential in personal growth in intelligence and career development. There are always new things to learn and new insight to gain as we go more in-depth on a topic, start a new course, change a position or career. There is always a place and time to learn.
Author Kelleher said, “Adaptability is a survival strategy. We all must be ready to learn, unlearn, and relearn.” (Kelleher, 2020, p. 389) The media is constantly in flux, and so is the industry. Similar to my reflection on self-study, adaptability is a survival skill in this constantly changing world. With this in mind, I am better oriented to move forward in my life. I hope that you, my dearest readers, are also moving forward, strategically and bravely.
Kelleher, T. (2020). Public relations (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press.