Spring break was legitimately almost two weeks ago and I haven’t had a chance to actually sit down and write since. It was beyond eventful and if you’ve been paying attention to my Instagram then you sort of have an idea of how my week went and what I did. In this post I’m going to break it down for y’all so you know how meaningful it was to me and how much I benefited from it. It can also alternatively give you an idea of how you can be productive even on vacation. It’s all about balancing business and pleasure.
So here’s some background info on how a poor college student was able to afford this trip; basically I saved money and filed my taxes and didn’t spend unnecessarily for about a month prior to going. My roommate, Nick, has family that lives in Charlotte , NC. So we had somewhere to stay, his sister and her fiance were also nice enough to cook for us for some of the nights during our stay. The two of us had job interviews in North and South Carolina during that week and Nick and I both had it set that we wanted to move down together after we graduate. We were going to be in the area anyway for spring break, so what better opportunity than now to try our luck with getting work down there?
I mean, graduation is literally a month away at the time of posting this. We’re both looking for positions in the PR/Marketing field, and work together at our internship and with our student-run firm on campus. We are also the President and Vice President of our PRSSA Chapter. In addition to all that, we made a 15-hour road trip to the PRSSA National Conference back in November. We weren’t worried about the 10-hour drive to Charlotte.
Day 1: Saturday, March 19 – Buffalo/Charlotte
7 a.m. We woke up early and decided the night before to drive down at 7 a.m. so that we’d get to the city by 5-6ish. Being my busy self, I didn’t do any laundry, nor did I finish packing until like 1 a.m. With no coffee running through my veins, I was grouchy. I told Nick he was driving the first shift, since he made me wake up early (I’m trying to savor sleeping in until at least 8:30 for as long as possible). We got my car all packed and Nick turned the key in the ignition. My car doesn’t start. We sat there trying to start the car and Googling solutions for 15 mins in 20-something temps before I got out and grunted “I’m gonna pop the hood.” The day before, I got an oil change and the technician must have knocked something because I shifted my starter and alternator a bit and the car roared to life.
We stopped for gas in Waynesburg, PA, which is interesting because we’re going there for a conference this weekend.
We stopped for gas in West Virginia.
We switched drivers every few hours. We ate. We listened to music. I slept.
We stopped for gas one more time about an hour out of Charlotte. Finally, pulling into Nick’s sister’s apartment complex, we were more excited than anything to get out of the car….. and shower, (we were gross) but mostly get out of the car. We settled in and showered and went for dinner at this diner around the corner. It was super good and we were garnering the looks of the locals because we changed into shorts and it was 55 degrees outside. That was basically summer for us Buffalo boys.
Then our hosts told us we were going to “The Dog Bar,” with their dog, a little pug named Harley and a boxer puppy they were puppysitting, named Gibson.The Dog Bar is literally what it sounds like. You go there to drink, and dogs are frolicking around EVERYWHERE. It was super cool, and different.
Day 2: Sunday, March 20 – Charlotte
Out of all of our days of Spring Break this was the most relaxed. We slept in (at least until not one but both dogs jumped on top of me and woke me up), and lounged around all day until we decided to go grocery shopping in the city. This was my first true taste of Charlotte, and I liked what I saw. The buildings were big, the city was clean and happening, and the people were gorgeous. Like really pretty. Maybe because it was Sunday and we were in “church country,” but I swear all of the girls we saw while out shopping looked like models, it was insane. Everybody was so nice and pretty and they made me feel welcome and happy. I blame the weather for their happiness, you don’t see that in New York.
After that we lounged some more, and prepared for our interviews the next day. We studied our interviewers and I set my alarm for 6:30 a.m. I had to drive four hours away in the morning to Greenville, NC for an interview at 12:30 p.m. and the last thing I wanted was to be late. Always cover all your bases. Before going to bed that night I said to Nick “You know what’s weird? I’m not nervous at all for tomorrow, or any of these interviews really.” Neither of us were. I think I wasn’t because I know my worth, I know how good I actually am and I can play to and attest to that, my portfolio is enough of a testament to that.
Day 3: Monday, March 21 – Greenville/Raleigh
6:30 a.m. – I woke up and groaned. Took a shower. Got dressed. Got in my car and put the address for my interview into the GPS.
The drive wasn’t necessarily the worst part, it was the scenery. Out towards eastern NC, there is nothing but wide open spaces, and if I wasn’t so excited for my first ever adult interview, I probably would have fallen asleep.
I made it to Greenville in one piece driving through Raleigh on my way in. It was 11:30, and I had an hour before my scheduled interview time. I went to McDonald’s and ordered, and then drove around Greenville to check it out and see if it was really some place I would want to live. Turns out it wasn’t. It’s so boring! Boring is good for some people, but for me, I need some place where there’s always something to do. I need some place that can keep me stimulated and interested in my surroundings.
12:15 p.m. – (For this portion, I’m going into first person, to switch it up a little bit.) I’m sitting in my car outside of the firm where I’m interviewing. I have to pee. I go into the firm. The receptionist/HR is a really nice woman who instantly makes me feel at ease and comfortable and excited for my interview. I fill out some paperwork, finish the paperwork and ask where the bathroom is. I pee. As I sit back down, the CEO comes in and brings me back to her office for the interview.
She wasn’t nice. Or pleasant. Or hospitable. It’s my belief now that she was trying to be intimidating. Long story short, she asked me questions, there was no way I could have answered without looking up the answer, she didn’t bother to look at my portfolio and she talked about herself for 15 minutes. I felt so uncomfortable, but tried my hardest to hold my composure, when she did let me speak. At the end of the interview she said, “Well, that’s it.” stood and didn’t shake my hand. She said that if they don’t choose me then not to have any hard feelings. Walking out of there, I felt awful. I thought “if this is how my first interview went, then how are the rest of my interviews going to go?” (Turns out it went well, because I received a phone call the next day for a second-round interview; I didn’t show. This was extremely unprofessional of me, and I would never ordinarily do something like this, but I wasn’t about to drive four hours for somebody who was absolutely terrible to me and for a person in the communications field, has little to no communication abilities.)
I needed something, and I needed to think. I do a lot of my best thinking walking around places and absorbing the culture, exploring. Raleigh, being the state capital, caught my interest and I’m really glad I stopped by. I felt better there, like it fit almost. I realized that this was because I was in the city. The city is a part of me and it took me this long to realize it.
Raleigh was beautiful and I walked and walked. It cleared my mind. I came across this really cool museum and it turned out it was the Capitol Museum, and it was free admission! Truth be told, I love museums, I find them so interesting because there’s so much history in one way or another in every museum. The fact that somebody’s history or work is on display for people to take in, man, there’s something so clandestine and admirable about that. The Sports Hall of Fame was beyond cool, and if you’re ever in the area, I recommend it.
My phone was dead, and it was about 5 p.m. so I decided to say goodbye to Raleigh and make the three-hour drive back to Charlotte. I made it in time for dinner, and researched my interviewer of my second interview, which was the next day. I had a new-found purpose, and went to sleep with the “you win some, you lose some” attitude.
Day 4: Tuesday, March 22 – Columbia
Nick and I both had interviews in Columbia on that Tuesday, so we decided to make the hour and a half drive down from Charlotte together. I was glad to have him with me because we really do play off of each other well and I feel like we make each other better.
My interview was two hours before his, so after a pep talk from Nick and an internal pep talk to myself, I walked in ready to talk about myself. I was going to show off my portfolio and, I was going to kill this thing. Turns out……I was right. I had a preliminary interview and because this firm knew A.) I was leaving at the end of the week and B.) Their rivals were interviewing me the next day, the boss invited me to come for a second round interview in forty minutes.
I was ecstatic. I ran back to the car, filled up my tank, we got some pancakes at McDonald’s and before you knew it I was back for another interview, which was about half an hour with another worker in the company. He then approved me for a third-round. The third-round was 10 minutes and consisted of me showing off my resume and receiving a job offer. We set a date for my first day, should I take the job, and it was incredible.
After Nick’s interview (which seemed to go well), I wanted to see Columbia, but somehow Nick and I ended up on the outskirts of town by the zoo and decided to enjoy the day there. It was hot, and we were in heaven. The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is hands down the best zoo I’ve been to, beating out my current favorite which was the Smithsonian Natural Zoological Park in Washington D.C.
It was huge and so interactive. The animals really responded to people, and it allowed me to look past the fact that they were raised in captivity, which is extremely hypocritical of me, I know. Walking around the zoo for a few hours (that’s how big it was), we worked up quite the appetite and I was more than ready to try Chick-Fil-A for the first time, after hearing so much hype about it for years. I now understand that hype, good lord! Since that Tuesday, I have had Chick-Fil-A three more times in the last three weeks, two more of those times being during Spring Break.
We headed back to Charlotte and prepared for Day 3 of interviews.
Day 5: Wednesday, March 23 – Columbia
My interview this day was at noon, so I was able to sleep in a little bit for the first time since Sunday, I needed it. Today was my final interview, the big one! This was the interview for a management position within a marketing firm. Nick had interviewed there the day before and gave me the heads up on what to expect and told me, the CEO was nice. This was mine. I was beyond confident, I was ready.
I went by myself because Nick had a third interview in Charlotte, and I vowed to myself that I would explore Columbia after my interview. By this point, an hour and a half drive was akin to driving to the grocery store for me.
12 p.m. – Go time. I was fifteen minutes early, as usual (make that a habit!) and was sitting across from the CEO of this particular firm. The interview went really well, it was a little bit like my interview in Greenville but I forced myself more upon my interviewer and she was suprememly impressed by my portfolio and experiences. We seemed to hit it off. She wanted to hear about me. The job sounded just like what I do already, and what I’d like to continue doing. The pay sounded great.
Leaving the interview, I felt good, so I headed to downtown Columbia, parked and walked. I was in the city for nearly four hours just taking it all in. I fell in love with the city. What’s interesting is that the city is most definitely on the rise. Besdies, there were palm trees! This was a huge deal for me, because I love palm trees and I don’t know, those trees pplus the sun, just put a smile on my face.
Downtown Columbia itself is a unique mixture of modern and historic and made me feel a little bit like I was back home in Buffalo. Again, the people were beautiful inside and out. The main street in downtown is called Main Street and was beyond interesting. Off to the side of this district, is a long, long strip of bars, and restaurants, and breweries, and basically my kind of place. This strip was called the Vista. I got some homemade ice cream there and was in heaven.
It was super hot and my dress clothes were sticking to me slightly. (I had forgotton my casual wear, back in Charlotte.) After walking the entirety of the Vista, I walked a side street, a very long side street, and just as I had nearly decided to turn around and head back to my car, I saw a University of South Carolina building and my mentor got his p.H.D. there so I was intrigued. He always talked about how great of a campus it was so I trudged on.
The next building on my radar was the Colonial Life Arena, which was loomig overhead of me as if to say “Please, Zack come in.” I marched up the steps to the door and pulled the handle with vigor. Locked. A cleaning lady on the opposite side of the glass looked back at me. She opened the door. “You here for tickets? She says to me. I stare at her for a split second before replying “No, I just have to use the bathroom.” I mean I did have to pee. After a great pee, I walked out and asked the lady if I could go look at the stadium, she said yes and I walked right in. It was breathtakingly huge. One of the best arenas I’ve eer seen outside of professional sports. Amazing.
I kept walking and ended up on the main drag of campus, and in the Greek Village which was compiled of sorority and fraternity housing up the wazoo. I felt like I was in a movie. Students were beautiful, the weather and campus were beautiful, the building beautiful. There were students riding to class on mopeds, there were students lounging by the outdoor pool attached to the campus fitness center.
I had never been on such a real college campus. I thought with a pang how different my life would have been had I attended a school like this. How deeply my pockets would have burned. How many beautiful people and things, I would have been surrounded by. There was a thousand emotions running through me like fire, but in the end the absolutely cohereant thought I had was “I’m going to school here. One way or another, eventually this is where I will attend grad school.” Most amazing campus ever.
I made it back to Charlotte, with a new sense of what I want to do. I also received a phone call to come back to Columbia for one last interview, a second-round for the management position. Grad school is absolutely in the cards for me and that new goal will be attained. Mark my words.
That night Nick was getting out of a training session he had to do for one of his interviewers and we met in Charlotte’s Uptown, which is what they call their downtown and had the best nachos I have ever had in my life. They had like pulled pork on them and were so mouthwatering, I can’t. It also marked the first time I was taking an Uber by myself and I messed up the first time and ended up paying $5 to a driver who didn’t take me anywhere. We then walked around Uptown and it was a really cool place, but I had Columbia in my soul.
Day 6: Thursday, March 24 – Columbia/Charlotte
My second-round interview was scheduled for 3 p.m. so that I would have time to rest up and have an absolutely clear head for my final interview of the week. I had a great morning/afternoon of doing absolutely nothing until I headed back to Columbia for the last time.
I arrived at my interview location, which was a road show setting, where I had to market a product to Sam’s Clubs Shoppers for about an hour. This would be a small duty as a member of this firm, and something I’d be doing before my jump into managment. I did really well and even sold some product. They said I would recieve a call by Monday-Tuesday for a third round, if selected.
Immidiately, I headed back to Charlotte no longer wanting to drive for any longer than I had to and we just hung around the house before deciding to go out for dinner. (Nick’s sister and her fiance were headed to Buffalo for Easter, so we had the house to ourselves.) Finally, I got to dig into something the south and especially North Carolina are known for: BBQ. I swear to you, I have never had any meat that delicious or tender. I don’t know how they made it, but it was absolutely incredible. I highly recommend it.
It was also so nice to finally be done with the hard part of the week and just appreciate the vacation aspect, we talked about how our interviews went and how now we could just let loose a little bit. It was freeing.
We planned on sleeping in and going to see Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, when we woke up, before the internet could ruin it for us. We also talked about maybe driving to Nashville, the Outerbanks, or Myrtle Beach the next day.
Day 7: Friday, March 25 – Myrtle Beach
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice – I may post a review later down the line on this film, so I won’t go into detail on plot points, etc. I LOVED it! It was a great way to start the day and I thought it was incredible. From the plot, to the cinematograohy, to the music, to the acting. Loved it. I was fanboying hard!
After that 2 and half hour show of awesomeness, Nick says “Let’s go to Myrtle Beach.” I was so excited, because I’ve been to Myrtle Beach a few times throughout my childhood and it was always one of my favorites. I hadn’t been there in years.
So we packed and drove, and drove through McBee SC, where gator water changed everything. (Inside joke, forget it.)
Making it to the beach we found this cheap motel before we left that we were going to try and stay at. I had never stayed at a motel in my life. The room itself wasn’t bad, it just reaked of marijuana, and the bed was their weird, bigger than King size thing.
After checking in, we ran downstairs lightning quick and called an Uber to take us to Margaritaville. We had about an hour and half before they closed and we wanted to enjoy ourselves. We did. I ate fish for the first time. I liked it. The drinks were good.
The night was beautiful, the weather good, the lights and the music setting the mood. We were walking around Broadway at the Beach, which is Myrtle Beach’s tourist trap. It was great, we agreed to come back the follwoing day, and spend the day here and some time at the beach as well.
We ended up at this night club’s grand opening and I had a fantastic time all night despite the large numbers of old people and the crap DJ. I think the DJ was so bad because the crowd was so old. Or alternatively a lot of the crowd was way too young. They were fun to watch and poke fun at though.
We called an Uber to take us back to the room, and before heading up to the room, went to the beach for a litte while. I love going to the beach during the day, but I love it even more at night. I think it’s the mystery of it all.
I know I for one, was so excited for what the next day was going to bring. Hopefully good weather, beach time, and relaxation.
Boy was I wrong.
Day 8: Saturday, March 26 – Myrtle Beach/Charlotte
10:30 a.m. – Check out was in half an hour. We had to get up. There is nothing in this world quite like waking up to the ocean. It’s one of my favorite things in life. To wake up and hear the water and see the water and take in the atmosphere and usually the sun. Today there was no sun. The skies were grey and I hoped and prayed that they would clear up.
Being quite hungry, we went to NHOP, which is such an original name. (Sarcasm) The torrential downpour began, we went to a gift shop and drove back to Charlotte defeated by the rain.
Settling back into Charlotte, we slept and slept and watched TV, ate Chick-Fil-A and slept. We were so tired not only from the night before, but the entire week and the weeks leading up to spring break. Sleeping was good.
We decided upon driving home when we woke up, neither one of us wanting to leave. Sometimes, (Most times) when you go somewhere that really resonates with you, it’s hard to leave and go back to everyday life, where you know how people are going to behave and react and how things are going to happen. Post-Vacation depression is a thing.
Day 9: Sunday, March 27 (Easter Sunday) – Charlotte/Buffalo
We woke up late. We drove back to Buffalo. We had the post-vacation blues. We stopped for Easter Dinner at an Arby’s. We got back to Buffalo at around 10 p.m. We went to my Mom’s, I missed dinner. I got an Easter basket and made plates of food for us, we drove home. We slept. It was nice. I wouldn’t change a thing, no regrets. It was a good Easter, probably one of my best.
(Just as an aside: For anyone going on a trip, road trip, or Spring Break in the future, go with someone you like. Someone who gets you, and who you get. It makes it all the more enriching to go and truly enjoy yourself with someone who is doing the same. He’s probably going to laugh at me for getting all gushy, but it’s true. There’s few people I can tolerate for that long or for that long of a drive, and I’m pretty tolerable. In fact, he’s in the room with me as I write this.)
I’ve gotten another job offer in addition to the one offered to me on the spot, but I haven’t given anybody a definitive answer yet, because I don’t have an answer yet. The jobs, while good work, are not what I envision for myself. They are not where I truly see myself being happy, but hey who knows? Sometimes, in life we have to take chances.
With one month left to go, I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but I’m going to apply for more positions, and let fate take over. I will end up where I’m supposed to end up, and I just have to keep putting in the work and effort to reach that end goal.
I want to work for an agency. I want to work campaign plans for a client and come up with different ways for a company to succeed. I have the ideas, the drive, the strategies, and the will. I will find my home, the place where I belong, the place where I am meant to be. Maybe not right away, but eventually.
-Look forward to a post in the coming days on my experience at the PRSSA Regional Conference, hosted by the lovely, Waynesburg University, titled: Caffeinate Your Career.