When I moved from the Northeast to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I had to make several adjustments. I learned to integrate “y’all” into my regular vocabulary. I acclimated to the sauna-like humidity that leaves you dripping with sweat just from walking to class. I experienced the delights of Chick-fil-A, Bojangles, and Cook Out for the first time.
But one thing I struggled to adjust to was the size of UNC-Chapel Hill. In high school, I attended a small boarding school in a sleepy town nestled in rural Connecticut (a far cry from my new energetic campus). I had many mentors in high school, including teachers, coaches, advisors, and dorm faculty. But at Carolina, I felt a sense of anonymity.
I’d made plenty of friends but found it difficult to connect with adults in the community. That is, until Morehead-Cain matched me with my mentor, Andrew Patterson ’06.
I met Andrew at the beginning of my junior year, a time when I was mired in uncertainty. Although I had jumped head-first into classes, campus organizations, and the greater Chapel Hill community, it was time to start thinking beyond my four years of college. Internship and job applications were on the horizon. I felt paralyzed by choice, torn between very different careers and industries.
When it came to applying for and choosing an internship, I was afraid to make the “wrong” choice. I thought I had to have a career plan all mapped out, and I felt pressure to land an internship that would set me up for success in whatever I chose to pursue, come graduation.
Thankfully, Andrew assured me that there was no “wrong” choice. He gave me the confidence to trust in myself and my decisions, knowing that life isn’t linear and it’s never too late to try something new. He encouraged me to seize the opportunities that came my way, and he showed me that each step in my professional path can be a learning experience.
But Andrew’s mentorship extends beyond a professional capacity. As we sat in Carolina Coffee Shop one day, swapping stories about our time at Carolina, I knew that he would be as much a friend as he is a mentor. He supports me not only in my academic endeavors, but in my personal ones, too, whether that means cheering me on as I train for a marathon or giving me recommendations for trips that I’ve planned with friends. At a school comprising tens of thousands of students, chatting with Andrew makes me feel seen.
On our most recent call, Andrew gave me one vital piece of advice for my last semester: enjoy. Just as he did when I was applying for internships, he encouraged me to take advantage of every opportunity I have to make the most of my remaining time here.
As Andrew has taught me, when in doubt, just go for it. And that’s exactly what I plan to do.
Sally Kuehn ’21 of Wayne, New Jersey, is a nutrition major at Carolina and a Spanish minor. The scholar is a volunteer for Carolina Conexiones, an organization within N.C. Children’s Hospital that serves Spanish-speaking families by bridging gaps in healthcare. Sally is also an intern for Well, a health technology and services company co-founded by Dave Werry ’06, and she is the co-president of the UNC Women’s Club Soccer.
Connect with a mentor
The Morehead-Cain Mentoring Program is designed to leverage the power of the Morehead-Cain network by cultivating connections between scholars and alumni, and providing structure and support to these relationships so they can develop based on shared values and interests. All rising juniors and seniors are eligible to participate.