When speaking to a college student (especially one about to graduate) everyone’s favorite inquiry happens to be “So what do you want to do next?” I’ve become so accustomed to answering this question with a response as automatically generated as the response to how I’m doing today, that I’ve forgotten why I chose my field of interest in the first place.

The truth is, my answer to this question, “pursue international public relations” sounds a lot more well thought out than it is. The usual follow-up questions include: “Wow, what languages can you speak?” or “Where in the world have you traveled?”

Thinking about it this morning, it amazes me how adding the word “international” to a job title or area of interest really impresses people. If I were to have just said public relations, or business and marketing or even medical school, none of these answers would evoke the same reaction that adding the word “international” does to my career choice.  This to me is extremely interesting, but I digress.

How did I go from a high school student, clueless as to what I wanted to do with my life, to an (almost) college graduate with a solid decision that I will pursue international public relations?

In 2006, during the summer before my senior year of high school, 17-year-old me took a two week trip to five countries in Europe through EF Tours. In retrospect, this trip would have a direct effect on the international interests I didn’t yet know I had. After spending two to three days each in France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Austria I came back to America infatuated with the idea that the world held so many different people, languages, cultures and ideas.

I decided that eventually I would escape the American South and travel the world. Of course, I figured my world traveling would have to wait until I was (at least) 40 and married and successful in some profession. 17-year-old me had no idea that this trip would open my mind to endless possibilities just around the corner: in college.

I decided to attend UNC Charlotte in 2007 as a business major, figuring business would be a good choice of major since I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was wrong. Second semester freshman year I was miserably struggling through boring math and economic introductory courses, realizing that I needed to make a change. I remembered a close friend once telling me that when in doubt to play off of my strengths, so I headed to Colvard, the communications building.

Knowing how much I loved to talk and write, I fell into the public relations track. Finally content and successful in my studies, I began focusing on what else made me happy: traveling. After learning about the Epley International Certificate newly offered by UNC Charlotte’s accredited public relations program, I decided to study abroad. In the fall of 2009, I spent the most amazing three months of my life in London, where I studied psychology (my minor) at Kingston University. In fact, I had such a life changing experience there, I probably would have become an illegal immigrant if not for the fact that I needed to come home and graduate. I came home with dozens of friends from all over the world, a vast knowledge of a culture much different than my own and a newly fueled passion for pretty much the entire world.

That brings me back to present. To truly complete the international aspect of my major, I’m now interning with the World Affairs Council of Charlotte. Working in the international public relations field, I have the pleasure of merging my two favorite things: the world outside of America and writing. This also brings me back to the fact that adding the word “international” to my career choice really isn’t that profound. It’s simply what I’m passionate about. Anyone can travel the world; it’s not that far away from America (contrary to popular belief). In fact, more people really should. If a 17/20-year-old can travel Europe equipped with only curiosity, excitement and some student loans, that should be motivation enough for people to want to see what else is out there.

Written by Courtney James, UNC Charlotte, International PR