Published January 2020
By Alejandra Carrasquilla, Communications Coordinator
Meredith Joy Adams, a 2018 graduate of UF IA, is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Rehabilitation & Mental Health Counseling at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science with a specialization in Equine Science in addition to her Innovation minor. Meredith was involved in the COPE Research Lab under Dr. O’Neal of the Family, Youth and Community Sciences department and served as President of LEAD by IA in 2015. She is responsible for founding the first banquet for IA with the IA awards, including the Jerry Declasse Memorial Award. Additionally, she served our community as an IA Ambassador and represented us as the Treasurer in the first executive board of the organization.
“After graduating from the University of Florida, I realized that I needed a break and chose to take a gap year. I remained in Gainesville while continuing with my work in the COPE Lab, studying for the GRE, submitting applications for graduate programs, and traveling. My travels took me to Israel and Vienna where I explored my family’s roots as well as throughout the USA for graduate school interviews. This gap year was so valuable for me and gave me the time and opportunity to reconnect with my extended family, invest in friendships and meaningful relationships, and reflect on my undergraduate experience.
When it came down to choosing where to attend graduate school, I selected the program that I felt was truly investing in their students and for me that ended up being Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Upon visiting Richmond for the first time I felt as though I fit right in. I love how diverse the city is, the prominent art scene, the natural scenery, and how friendly people are. At the time I made my decision to commit to VCU, the Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling department was in the process of moving into a brand-new state-of-the-art building and I am honored to be among the first group students to have classes there.
Coincidentally within a week of committing to VCU for my graduate program a friend and fellow IA Alum, Kaitlin Alexander, paired me up with another friend and IA Alum, Sierra Pollard, as roommates while we both complete our graduate studies at VCU. It has been a wonderful experience rooming with a fellow IA Gator in Richmond, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
“It was certainly an adjustment in terms of having different seasons and the pacing of things. Being in central Virginia I realize has helped me to slow down and take my time to be thorough with my work. I’m still figuring out my way around town and building my professional network but it all will come with time and experience.
Upon starting my graduate program, I felt so welcomed. I’m grateful to be here and am enjoying my classes. In my first semester I took Counseling Techniques, Counseling Theories, Career Counseling, and Introduction to Mental Health Counseling. My hard work and time at the University of Florida definitely prepared me for the rigorous course load and gave me the foundation I needed to be academically successful at VCU. And I’ve also been fortunate to have found a supportive community for myself in Richmond.
So far, in grad school, I have established the right balance for myself after learning my lessons and reflecting from my times in undergrad. I now know my limits and it has served to be a really valuable experience. I discovered the importance of a fitness routine and began to incorporate yoga into my schedule a few times a week. Overall, I’m really learning the skills required to be the best counselor I can be and making the most of the opportunities in front of me.”
“I think something current students should take into consideration is what life after college might look like for them. It can be a confusing time trying to figure out what to do next, or where to go, and I observed many friends experience what I refer to as post-graduation depression. Once you graduate and leave undergrad it can be tough. You’ve grown accustomed to a particular structure, community of people, and the resources of a college campus after so many years, it can be difficult to transition. After graduating college, you realize that you have to learn to be self-reliant, put yourself out there to find opportunities, build a new structure for yourself, find a community, and bring your own inner sunshine. Becoming aware of this will help in future life transitions.
[I believe that] the life lessons I learned at UF and my involvement in IA is what I feel has set me up for success. I enjoyed my gap year very much, I’m loving grad school, and I’ve found a great balance in my life while creating a structure that works for me.”