Choose Your Own Adventure

Greetings, #aud2b and #slp2b friends!

With almost four years of undergrad under my belt, I’ve picked up a few tidbits that have transformed my education. Like you, I’m constantly seeking to maximize my opportunities beyond the classroom. With so many resources available to you as an undergraduate, I’d like to highlight some my favorites and encourage you to take advantage of them in creating an enriching adventure that’s uniquely yours:

Ask for That Shadowing Experience

As a first-year student, I felt shy about asking professionals for shadowing experiences. However, I gathered my courage and reached out to hospitals, private practices, skilled nursing facilities, and voice centers.

My teachers were right when they impressed upon us that some knowledge isn’t found in textbooks. At first, I mistakenly labeled myself as an ‘adults’ type of gal. But after observing all of the joys and creative challenges seen across the lifespan in the different settings, I discovered the fascinating realm of voice therapy. Those hours shadowing professionals broadened my vision and highlighted my current research interest.

Not sure where to begin looking? Your professors and NSSLHA advisors can direct you to potential observation sites in your area. Try a Google search for “your town + audiology” or “your town + speech-language pathology” to find nearby clinics. Explore their websites and contact professionals to ask if you could shadow them for a day.

Be bold (but polite, of course) in asking for what you want. You might unearth new nuggets of knowledge about the professions, or perhaps even your yet-undiscovered clinical passion.

Participate in Research

Have you always wanted to explore an interesting topic more in-depth? Consider participating in a research project to fuel your curiosity!

No need to feel intimidated if research isn’t something you’ve considered before—there are lots of ways to dip your toes in:

  • Ask a professor if they’ll work with you to design an independent study.
  • Reach out to the coordinator of your school’s research lab(s) and ask if you can volunteer for an hour or two each week.
  • Approach the professor from your favorite class about designing an undergrad thesis project.
  • Investigate summer research internship opportunities.

The possibilities are endless once you start looking. If you find that you truly enjoy the process, you could even apply to present your research at a conference!

Get Connected

Undoubtedly, one of the best ways we learn is by sharing with others. Connecting with my SLP and audiology friends across Texas and even the United States has been the most rewarding part of my undergraduate experience. Here are a few suggestions on how to connect with your peers and professionals:

  • Participate enthusiastically with your NSSLHA chapter! This is an excellent way to learn from other students and your advisors, partake in community outreach events, and connect with professionals.
  • Apply to be a National NSSLHA Student State Officer. You won’t regret it! You will not only have the opportunity to create a network of passionate students and mentors, but you’ll also learn so much about the inner workings of our professions. Plus, it’s a fantastic opportunity to develop your leadership abilities and refine your communication skills (super important for graduate school).
  • Attend the ASHA Convention and/or your state association’s convention. I can’t think of a better way to speak directly with real-life professionals and learn about the latest research/advocacy efforts.
  • Contribute to the NSSLHA Blog and interact in the comments section. You’ll be able to polish your writing skills, speak on a topic that lights you on fire, and help to educate a nation of students.

These are some of the tips I’ve followed that have taken my college years from ‘going through the motions’ to rich and robust! What adventures have you forged that have contributed to a meaningful educational experience? Feel free to share below in the comments—I’d love to see. Best of luck to all of you in discovering rewards you never expected!

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