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Student Life

Honors and Scholars Program Students Embark on Inaugural Career Connections Trip

Students spent their fall break seeing the sites of Washington, D.C., meeting and networking with NC State alumni and even attending a Washington Nationals baseball game.

A group of NC State students in the stands at a Washington Nationals game, making wolfie signs

By Elyse Boldizar

Explorations of national monuments, career connections with a variety of NC State alumni and professionals, new friendships — the University Honors and Scholars Program’s (UHSP) trip to Washington, D.C. was one for the books. Students across different disciplines had the opportunity to explore the nation’s wondrous capital, learning more about themselves and their career ambitions along the way.

Each fall break, the UHSP hosts exploration trips for students. This year students ventured to New York City; Asheville, N.C.; and Washington, D.C. According to Cliff Parker, UHSP program coordinator who was in charge of leading the trip, the D.C. trip’s goal was to provide UHSP students an opportunity to learn hands-on how to explore career and graduate schools, further develop their professional identity, set goals, and network in one of the country’s fastest-growing cities.

” We wanted students to discover their unique interests and skills, network with NC State and UHSP alumni, explore post-graduate opportunities and learn some tools to navigate potential first destinations after graduation,” Parker explained.

The trip began with a roundtable discussion with staff members for North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis. Introduced to the Dirksen Senate Office by one of the friendliest dogs they had ever met, students had the chance to ask questions about a career in government on the Hill. The discussion gave insight into one of the many careers students can pursue with a major from NC State. The staff members, one of whom was a graduate of NC State, emphasized how, through the university, there are so many opportunities available to students. 

Later, after an evening walking past towering state monuments including the U.S. Capital, Supreme Court and the Library of Congress, students enjoyed a Washington Nationals vs. Boston Red Sox baseball game at Nationals Park. There, students chatted with D.C.-residing NC State alumni who gave students critical advice about life in the city and career exploration.

“I really enjoyed hearing from alumni and the paths they’ve taken to get where they are. The variety of events we attended made every networking opportunity feel more natural and personable than sitting in a lecture hall listening to someone’s experiences,” said Abigail Bope, a junior majoring in biological engineering. 

“I learned that there are more traditional and non-traditional approaches to careers, and that it is okay to explore different options and see what you are interested in,” said Krupa Bharodiya a sophomore majoring in business administration.

This last piece of advice was something the D.C. trip emphasized. Many of the alumni and professionals highlighted the nontraditional journeys they took to get where they are in their careers. Changing majors midway through college, following their interests, taking every opportunity — each of their experiences were different, but all, students found, were valid. One graduate, in particular, highlighted this important piece of advice. Andriy Shymonyak, a history and political science major who graduated in 2015 and now works as the senior agreement administrator at the National Democratic Institute, emphasized how important it is for students and those just starting their careers to not blindly “take advice from strangers. You know yourself more than you or others want to admit. Be confident in your preferences, goals and desires. Be willing to be vulnerable and ask for help along the journey.” 

The remainder of the trip included a visit to the Kennedy Center for its 50th Anniversary Exhibit, a tour of the International Spy Museum and excursions to the Smithsonian Institutions. Students walked away with once-in-a-lifetime experiences. However, according to students, one of the most special takeaways from D.C. was the friendships formed. Sarah Timin, a sophomore majoring in chemistry, reflected, “My favorite part about the trip was meeting other students I never would have been given the opportunity to meet. It was very cool to meet people from all different backgrounds and beliefs.” 

Overall, the UHSP’s Career Connections fall break trip gave students a chance to experience a new city, careers and friendships. Stepping out of Raleigh for the weekend opened students’ eyes to endless opportunities, leaving them inspired and connected well past the last metro ride.