Are there second helpings after graduation?

Scholarly Pursuits: A Senior’s Adventures in Academia

Meagan Racey is a journalism and mass communication major from Whispering Pines.

Are there second helpings after graduation?

posted 9/28

 Graduation is like a home-cooked meal.

On those lucky nights when I’m home, Mom’s call to the table answers my growing anticipation. The aroma wafting from the kitchen has prepared me for overstuffed indulgence. When it’s finally ready, I dig in, savoring every bite. But I’m never quite ready for an empty plate.

Even as a naïve freshman, I anticipated my final days in the southern part of Heaven. No matter what I do after graduation, I’ll forever be a Tar Heel. No matter where I go, I’ll walk under a Carolina blue sky.

But I must admit, I didn’t expect the lofty “senior” title to bring me both excitement and a bit too close to reality. Home-cooked meals are rare indulgences, but only once will I graduate as part of the Class of 2010.

Let’s be honest. I twinge at the thought of graduation.

Class? Sometimes it’s at the back of my mind. All the senior-esque activities distract me-from lying down in Polk Place with a good book and grabbing a burger at Top-O to spending the afternoon playing soccer in the intramural fields.

But, like most students, I’ve got about 20 minutes to spare for each of those leisure ventures. I think we all know that one feature of Carolina doesn’t change: Academic rigor.

We also know that it’s still worth the work to graduate from one of the top universities in the nation. (Go Heels!)

So I’m here to share with you a senior’s last scholastic (and maybe not so scholastic) endeavors as a Tar Heel undergraduate. I hope my words will spark memories of your Carolina days while also introducing some of the changes in the Carolina way.

About me

I moved to North Carolina from Northern Virginia when I was 10. Since then I’ve lived on a golf course in Whispering Pines (neighbor to the golf capital Pinehurst), but I’ve never golfed. I don’t dislike the sport, just never got into it.

I also didn’t grow up a Tar Heel fan. (Gasp, I know.) My dad desperately tried to brainwash me maroon and orange. A diehard Hokie (Class of ’86), he’s reluctant to root for the Heels even during the football bowl games.

My mom is finally retaliating against the Tech bumper stickers and baseball caps that litter our house-though a little too late to save my 15-year-old brother, Tyler, who wears maroon even at a UNC game against Georgia Tech. But my mom sports purple James Madison University (Class of ’84) sweatshirts, drinks her beer from a Dukes glass and has slapped yet another magnet (purple and white) on the family Chrysler Town and Country.

My mini-van-a much appreciated hand-me-down from my parents-only wears the finest of stickers, Carolina blue, of course.

When I chose to enter the world of news and deadlines, I knew Carolina was the place for me. I’ve spent my time in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the English department (my other major), as well as the music department, where I played trombone with the Low Brass Studio and studied medieval music and jazz for my minor.

When people ask me about my extracurriculars, I have a rather plain response: internships. I’ve worked only one non-internship job while I’ve lived in Chapel Hill-that of a beverage cart attendant at the Chapel Hill Country Club off Highway 54. It was a nice break from the 9-to-5 and the world of cubicles.

The following may sound like priming for a workaholic, but I’ve plenty of distractions to quell the work flow-from friends and hiking to running, reading and movies.

Freshman year I worked as a copy editor intern at The Brooks Group, a company in Greensboro that trains sales people. Bill Brooks, the CEO, privileged me with copy-editing his book, Perfect Phrases for Lead Generation. He died from cancer in 2007 (rest in peace, Mr. Brooks).

During my sophomore year I wrote vignettes about the wishes granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Eastern North Carolina. The international foundation strives to fulfill the dreams of children with life-threatening diseases. As the chapter’s public relations intern, I wrote about adventures in Disney World, Hawaii and the Bahamas. Such wishes, even the simple ones for parties, Segways and concerts, grant families rare moments uncomplicated by medical needs and financial difficulties.

I have a soft spot for Make-A-Wish. The foundation funded a trip to Disney World for my family when I was in middle school. My brother, sister and I had never flown before, and it was our first family vacation. My sister, not quite two years younger than me, grew up with kidney disease that attacked not only her two kidneys, but those given to her by others-my father, my aunt and a teenager who died in a car accident. She died of cardiac tamponade almost three years ago when I was a freshman at Carolina. Her death-a heartbreak that my family and I deal with daily-is a haunting reminder of the fleeting wonder of life (I miss you, little sis).

During my Make-A-Wish internship, I began working as the student writer for Judy Panitch in the University Library Communications Department and as an intern at News Services (I loved my time at both). I worked there until this past summer, when student employment budgets were cut.

I spent my summer at The Herald-Sun in Durham, writing stories for the Metro section (and sometimes the front page!) on homeless veterans, children with chronic illnesses, parents whose children serve in the military, and other local matters. I liked the community feel of the paper and hope to freelance for it during the school year. I have freelanced for The Chapel Hill Herald section, as well as the University Gazette, North Carolina Signature magazine , Southern Neighbor and the Carolina Communicator.

I was fortunate to spend three weeks in Greece for a UNC summer school abroad program with the now-retired Professor W.J. McCoy. I hiked the longest gorge in Europe (the Samaria Gorge in Crete), visited the Acropolis and Minoan palaces, and took cooking lessons from a Cretan native. I even learned a little Greek, which was helpful for the two days I spent in a private clinic for gastroenteritis.

I finished my summer interning with the Society of Professional Journalists at its convention and national conference in Indianapolis. Talk about intimidating. I was a reporter for The Working Press, the convention’s daily tabloid written by green journalism students for the careful eyes of seasoned journalists. But I had a wonderful (though sleepless) learning experience, and I really appreciated the help of our professional staff, who oversaw and directed our work.

That brings us up to the Carolina Alumni Review. I’m excited to be working with alumni and joining (somewhat blindly) the blogosphere. I look forward to swapping Carolina stories with you and hearing your feedback and advice. Rah-rah, Car’lina-‘lina!