My path to finding a major and career started in a place very close to home. I was inspired my mom’s personal story of growing up in Malaysia and overcoming the challenges of living with food insecurity. Coming to Illinois, I brought a lot of interest in sustainable agriculture. Within my classes, I discovered that there are important stories to be told about the needs of those experiencing food insecurity, as well as interesting and meaningful stories for how companies in the food industry brand themselves to their customers. The desire to craft branding and advertising stories is what drew me to Agricultural Communications (and Advertising) within in the College of Media.

The advertising program at Illinois is second to none! I am very thankful for the way I was “hooked in” not only to an interest in advertising, but to develop a passion for the advertising industry as a whole. The classes exposed me to advertising both as a business and as an art form. I know how to plan an advertising campaign and how to budget the work. And, I also know how to get beyond the numbers and dollars, in order to tell a story that can transform a brand. I think that is what keeps me really interested in my work every day.

Outside of class, I engaged leadership roles in the IlliniPAC student organization and as the Recruitment Chair for AEPi Fraternity. This supported my major by helping me develop broad networks, effective listening, and strong communication skills. I am really thankful for the opportunity to learn how people come from different backgrounds, each having their own story to tell. Understanding other people’s points of view has enhanced my ability to communicate and connect with others.

Another unique opportunity that Illinois provided occurred during my senior year. I used some extra elective hours to take some art history classes. They quickly became my favorite college classes. They propelled my interest in photography and other forms of art. Combining these classes with my core advertising classes spurred my interest in the creative, design side of advertising.

Now I work at Starcom as a Media Associate. I’m learning about media planning and buying in an organization with a strong company culture that promotes team collaboration and internal communication. It’s such an eye-opening experience to build upon what I learned in college, and is helping me get closer to my “end-all, be-all” goal of becoming a storyteller for brands.

My advice for current students it to use the time that you have at Illinois to explore many interests. There are so many opportunities available – from classes, to student organizations, to social circles. You can get more out of your college experience by gaining exposure to different things. For example, the art history classes I took provided new insights into my vision in branding and where brands are going with their ads. This enhanced understanding has helped separate me in job interviews. My initial curiosity has now turned into a passion and a hobby. I anticipate it will enrich my career path, and I am looking forward to seeing where it leads.