When my mother was doing an Education degree at Memorial in the 1970s, she had the opportunity to travel to England to do her internship teaching at a primary school in Old Harlow.
She would often talk longingly about living in that small town, getting to know her students and the residents of Harlow, buying groceries from the little shop on the High Street, taking the train to London for city adventures.
Her trip inspired her sisters and brother, fellow Memorial Education students, to also attend Harlow Campus.
When I started my undergraduate degree at Memorial in 2003, I didn’t know what program I would do. But there was no doubt in my mind: I had to go to Harlow. I’d been hearing about it all my life and knew I needed to experience it for myself.
Little did I know, that experience would have an even bigger impact on my life than I originally realized, and would lead me to my dream career.
In the fall of 2005, I got that chance. I was one of the lucky 29 students to be a part of Memorial’s Landscape and Literature program with Drs. Michael and Annette Staveley – an English and Geography program that took students on field trips around the country while studying classic British literature.
Reading Dickens at his house in London; seeing a Shakespeare play in Stratford-upon-Avon; visiting the Lake District and reading Wordsworth surrounded by idyllic scenery. It sounded like an English major’s dream – and it really was.
Those four (semi-) carefree months were some of the happiest, most full of growth months of my life.
It was my longest trip away from home and everyone I knew. I had boarded the plane in September with a group of complete strangers and returned in December with 28 new friends, some of whom are still my closest today.
It was the completion of my Harlow program, though, that was the catalyst for my future career. When I returned to the St. John’s campus for the winter 2006 term, I came across a MUCEP position in the associate vice-president (academic)’s office.
They were looking to fill a marketing assistant position that focused on promoting Harlow Campus to students on the St. John’s campus and helping professors prepare their students for their stay in Harlow.
Since I was so passionate about the experience I’d had the previous term, I knew I would be the perfect fit. I got the job and stayed in the position for two years until I graduated in 2008.
I held information sessions around campus telling students about upcoming programs and how they could attend, hosted information booths at different orientation and study abroad fairs and created marketing resources like brochures and promotional materials, all without realizing I was setting myself up for my future career in public relations.
I knew during my MUCEP position that I loved the promotional work I was doing and everything that came with it, but didn’t know how I could translate that into a career.
It wasn’t until a family member said to me, “You’d be great at public relations: you love networking with people and making connections, sharing information, planning events and parties. You should look into it.”
I realized they were right – I did love all those things. Those were the kinds of things I had been doing when promoting the Harlow Campus, and I loved that.
I began researching public relations programs, applied to Humber College in Toronto, and 10 years later, I’ve been fortunate to have worked in a variety of public relations, marketing and communications roles in Toronto and in St. John’s.
I hadn’t been on the public relations career path when I had started my undergrad at Memorial, but by the time I finished, thanks to my MUCEP position, and ultimately, my life-changing Harlow program experience, I found my calling.
You never know where life is going to take you, but if you’re lucky enough to have an experience like I did with Harlow, you might just find your perfect fit in the end.
On Oct. 25, I look forward to remembering the great times my Harlow group had in 2005, and celebrating with fellow Harlow alumni at the Harlow Campus 50th anniversary social taking place at Signal Hill Campus in St. John’s.
More information on purchasing tickets can be found online. I hope to see you there!