After a year and a half of Zoom University, we are finally back to face-to-face learning at the University of Florida. Let me start out by saying that I do feel safe being in a classroom. Each student does their part by wearing a mask and being vaccinated and/or getting COVID tested regularly. It feels so good to be back in a room surrounded by like-minded peers and passionate professors. It’s funny seeing the students who you chatted with through video each day in-person now, but I can comfortably ask someone a question, work with a partner and speak up during class again.
While public relations relies heavily on digital media and work can effectively be done remotely, working together in real life helps me brush up on my communication skills and form relationships — two very important aspects of public relations. It’s easy to be distracted by technology, so unless needed for the class, I put down my phone and change my notification settings to “Do Not Disturb” — something difficult to do when learning behind a screen.
Since I started my freshman year at the University of Florida, I remember my PR professors, again and again, saying one word: Network. Despite having a creative resume and 500+ LinkedIn connections, I believe the best way to foster career advancement is through networking with both peers and professionals. We’re so fortunate to have listened to many guest speakers over Zoom, but I want the opportunity to go up to the professional after his/her session and introduce myself. LinkedIn enables you to “create a connection,” but it doesn’t put your face in the speaker’s brain. Chatting with friends about their organizations and involvement helps encourage us to try something new — and now we know someone who can help us do that.
I missed having a professor know me by my name and face. I missed getting to hear the girl next to me talk about her summer internship experience. I missed presenting a deck in front of my class and seeing their live reactions, not just a “thumbs up” through a muted Zoom box.
Like many, I didn’t know that two years ago I’d be seeing my last guest speaker face-to-face. I am so fortunate that I get to spend my senior year back in UF’s J-school, where I originally pictured I’d grow to be a regular over my four years. I get to feel like an active member of PRSSA on campus again.
As long as we continue to remain safe and follow the recommended protocols, we are going to be able to enjoy the most wonderful aspects of academia. For those underclassmen who have missed out on a year or two of in-person learning, I highly recommend that you become a member of your college’s PRSSA Chapter. PRSSA helps you create connections within the communications industry and with established professionals who can lead you on your career path through your education and down the road when you are looking for internships. Make the most of your college experience and your professional development this year when you’re back on campus.
Kimberly Hurd is a senior public relations student at the University of Florida. She’s a member of the UF Chapter of PRSSA and the PRSSA National Publications Subcommittee. Aside from PR, she sings in UF’s all-female a cappella group, The Sedoctaves. Connect with Kimberly on LinkedIn.