Parents + Families
Before Elizabeth Grady ever set foot in Chapel Hill, she knew she wanted to leave. Studying abroad was near the top of her list of college goals — a dream she fulfilled by traveling to London during the spring of her sophomore year as part of the Honors Study Abroad program.
A junior from Greensboro, Elizabeth came to Carolina with a strong interest in journalism and political science. But she never imagined how those two interests would converge through an internship in the British Parliament.
“I always wanted to work in a foreign government and understand how other nations operate, but I never thought in a million years that I would have a chance to work at Parliament. It was an amazing experience,” Elizabeth says.
She worked as an intern for Jenny Willott, a former chief whip, and helped her manage a variety of constituent issues.
“It was a real world experience,” she says. “There was no training. I just jumped right in.”
The experience taught Elizabeth two important lessons: that the world is much bigger than the bubble of Chapel Hill, and that your dreams can never be big enough.
Elizabeth came to appreciate certain aspects of the American political system, while recognizing other areas that were ripe for improvement. And at the end of the day, she was certain that she wanted to pursue a career that combined politics and media.
Spending a semester in London taught her other valuable lessons as well: Take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. Learn something from everyone you come in contact with. Embrace the experiences that present themselves.
Elizabeth was determined to soak up her experience. She attended every event she could find, focused on making connections with everyone she met, and spent the weekends traveling to Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Prague, Greece, Austria, Germany, and beyond.
She successfully forged lasting relationships with Carolina alumni, fellow Honors Carolina students, and professionals she met while working at Parliament. Today, she remains connected with a contact at Parliament and Honors Carolina alumni, leveraging her network to gain career advice and open doors that may guide her future.
Her advice: “Take advantage of every opportunity you can and run with it.”
When Casey Collins first arrived in Chapel Hill, he was certain that he wanted to pursue a career in medicine. He spent his first two years doing exactly what you might expect — acing advanced science courses, conducting research in a stem cell lab, and working towards a publication in a scientific magazine.
Working in a lab left him feeling isolated, so Casey started thinking about other ways to explore his passion for science and medicine. After spending a summer in Ecuador researching the impact of a national health care reform, Casey developed a series of new, diverging interests.
During his junior year, Casey spent a semester in Washington, DC studying public policy and working with a non-profit organization serving refugees and immigrants. He honed his research and language skills interviewing children who had entered the United States illegally.
The experience stoked Casey’s interest in law and immigration issues. It led to a local internship at RTI International researching the prevalence of labor trafficking in North Carolina.
Casey, a senior from Charlotte, is now preparing to pursue a law degree when he graduates in May. He’s enthralled by the opportunity to make a tangible and positive impact on the lives of immigrants.
Becoming an immigration attorney is a path Casey never expected when he arrived in Chapel Hill four years ago, but he couldn’t be happier. And he knows that Honors Carolina has prepared him to thrive in the future, no matter what opportunities present themselves.
Casey’s advice: “Trust that things will work out if you follow your passions. Do what you find challenging and exciting, and don’t necessarily worry about where it’s going to lead you.”
Casey admits his path was sporadic and non-linear, but following his whims helped him discover his true calling. “It’s been a great experience. I’ll never look back and wish I had taken more risks or done anything differently.”
You don’t have to conduct much research to learn that Eleanor Brightbill loves science. She always has.
Shortly after she arrived in Chapel Hill, Eleanor jumped at the opportunity to get involved in undergraduate research. She began working at a neuroscience lab with Professor Donita Robinson, using rats to study how alcohol affects the brain.
A Taylor Fellowship enabled Eleanor to expand her research activities the summer following her sophomore year. She worked full-time as a research assistant at a NC State lab that was collaborating with Professor Robinson. Together, they studied the dopamine system in hopes of better understanding issues such as addiction and depression.
The experience provided Eleanor with significant research responsibilities and opened her eyes to the importance of collaboration between professors and universities. It also reinforced what she always suspected: she wanted to spend her career focused on analytical research.
“At the time, I wasn’t completely sure what I wanted to major in,” Eleanor says. “It solidified for me that I wanted to focus on chemistry.”
At the end of her Taylor Fellowship, Eleanor remained actively involved in undergraduate research. She has spent the past year working in Professor Scott Warren’s lab focused on discovering new 2D materials from naturally occurring minerals and is currently completing a senior honors thesis.
When the senior from Sanford, NC graduates in May, she will enter graduate school and begin her pursuit of a PhD in materials chemistry.
“Get involved in research early on,” she says. “It helped me figure out what I wanted to do and what other opportunities I wanted to check out.”
Eleanor says the breadth of experiences that UNC afforded her were pivotal in helping her figure out what she wanted to do. “College is a great time to explore. Do whatever you find interesting, even if you don’t know where it might lead.”
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Financial support from Honors Carolina alumni, parents and friends plays a critical role in our efforts to support excellence in undergraduate education. State funding accounts for less than 15 percent of our annual budget, so every gift makes a difference in fulfilling the promise we make to our students: Come Here Go Anywhere.