From Co-op to Career: Part 2 – Motivation, Determination & the “Freshman Fifteen”

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June 25th, 2015 – The U.C. school year didn’t start until mid-August, but this was the day in early summer that my college experience began. I immediately felt like I had hit adulthood the moment my parents dropped me off and I was on my own in the middle of an urban college campus. I had three things on my mind: dancing, getting straight A’s, and not gaining the “freshman fifteen.” (Believe me, both Adriatico’s pizza and Skyline Chili are that good!)

The advantage of being on the U.C. Dance Team was that we had to get to campus roughly two months early for workouts and camp. This allowed me to learn the lay of the land before classes started. The upperclassman taught me where to eat, how to grocery shop, and how to manage being on my own. Being able to figure this all out before classes started helped me out tremendously as I was able to ease into the culture shock of college. I was able to be more focused on (what I believe) are the two most important things in college: managing a schedule and staying motivated. 

My freshman year was jammed packed and managing my schedule took dedication and work. I took 18 credit hours in addition to dancing 30+ hours a week. My daily schedule was extremely fast-paced compared to my classmates. I was always on the go. I followed a strict plan that kept me busy seven days a week from 7AM-10PM. I even had a planned time to call my parents. I quickly learned how to not procrastinate and finish every assignment well before the due date.  

That being said, maintaining a strict schedule was exhausting. I did not have the opportunity to live the typical “college life” that everyone else had the luxury of living. I couldn’t grab dinner on a whim with my friends, play a pick-up game of frisbee golf, or attend a sporting event as a spectator. On a football game-day, all I could think about was the 10-hour day full of dancing while my friends were in the student section. Don’t get me wrong, being on the field was a blast, but it was still a job where we all had to stay focused. There was rarely any time that I could relax, and this took a toll on me. I had to constantly remind myself the reason why I was doing this: I wanted to dance and I wanted to become an engineer. That was my motivation. I choose to do all of this even if it meant missing-out on typical “college life”.

Staying motivated despite my vigorous schedule was possible because of the support from my family and fellow dance team members. With my family being three hours away from campus in Toledo, the U.C. Dance Team became my in-town family. We studied together, practiced together and celebrated together. The importance of a support system is pertinent to being successful in any endeavor, but especially to new college students with multiple responsibilities and transitioning to adulthood.  If I had to opportunity to go back to my freshman year, I wouldn’t change a thing. The hard work and new responsibilities helped me to build my resume for my first co-op experience, create a support system in Cincinnati, and win a World Title all while creating  life-long friendships alone the way.

The advice I have for anyone trying to manage a busy lifestyle, would be to remember why you are doing what you are doing. My dream of being a student-athlete studying to become a chemical engineer was only possibly because I kept on reminding myself of what I wanted to achieve. Having a goal (to become a chemical engineer) and the accountability (being a student-athlete with multiple responsibilities) gave me a true purpose to continue to pursue my dreams. And, on a side note, staying busy and constantly being on-the-move allowed me to reward myself and indulge a little on Adriatico’s pizza and Skyline chili – and I did NOT gain the “freshman fifteen!”

Until next month – stay motivated and GO BEARCATS!

  Caroline Kelley

PS – If you find yourself on U.C.’s campus you should definitely check out Adriatico’s (get “The Bearcat”) and Skyline Chili in Clifton!

Caroline Kelley is a Chemical Engineering student at the University of Cincinnati and will be graduating in May 2020.  She began a Co-op at AP Tech  in 2017. Upon graduation in May, 2020 she will be working full-time  with AP Tech as a Chemical Engineer in the role of Product Manager.

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