Looking Back

Giving Advice to My Freshman Self


By Jill DeFranco, Senior, Industrial Distribution and Logistics

You pack up the family car to the brim, and the car starts to get further and further away from the town you called home for 18 years. You feel an indescribable feeling of a mixture of bliss and pure terror. You’re off to begin your freshman year of college; the next four years that are supposed to determine the course of your life.

A little over three years ago that was me. I grew up in a small town outside of Cleveland, Ohio, nicknamed “The Bainbridge Bubble” because most people do not stray far, and nothing bad really occurs there.

So there I was, 10 hours away from the place I called home, and I did not know a soul. And now here I am, president of a sorority, president of an organization on campus, involved in the community, and with a plethora of friends that the thought of leaving this place in May breaks my heart.

I think a huge part of why I have become involved is because I had to. I would not be where I am or who I am today without the people that I have met over the past few years; the individuals who have pushed me to succeed and picked me up when I have fallen. One of my wonderful Phi Mu advisers once told me, “You may fall, but you will not fail.” That truly resonated with me. In the end, it is not about your downfalls, whether it be a bad grade on a test, a horrible job interview, or when nothing in life seems to be going your way. It is, however, about how you pick yourself up and grow from your mistakes to do better next time by never giving up.

My major is not the most glamourous, and there are usually a maximum of three girls in any of my classes, but I love it. The Industrial Distribution and Logistics program is unlike any other program at East Carolina University. Not only is my job outlook seeming marvelous (as I leave my senior denial to attend job interviews), I have also gained so much more than classmates. I have gained a family. I have two brothers back in Ohio, but I have a handful of brothers here. Whether it’s helping me on my homework, giving me a pep talk about boys, or even killing a cockroach in my apartment, I always have someone. It is bittersweet when one of my friends graduates, but I am excited for them in the real world, and I know that we will keep in touch.

There are not enough words in the dictionary to describe how grateful I am for my professors and anyone who has helped me along the way. I have had the opportunity to go to several conferences, one of which was in Ponte Verde, Florida, and it was called the National Association of Electrical Distributors Women in Industry Forum (try to say that five times fast). It was cool to see that there are a lot of women out there in the industry, and I actually ended up getting an internship at Mayer Electric this summer from networking at the forum. Internships are very important because it is one thing to learn from a book or in class, but it is a completely different aspect to see it first hand. I have had potential jobs tell me that they love to see internship experience on a resume.

If I could give my freshman self any chunk of advice, it would be always to take opportunities that are in front of you, and it is never too early to get an internship. No matter what, there will be bumps in the road, but you have to keep going. And don’t forget, you’re never peaking. You’re always on a plateau of excellence.