FIRST-CLASS honours graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts and Technology (BACAT), valedictorian nominee and student ambassador, are just a few of the accomplishments earned by University of Technology, Jamaica Class of 2023 graduand Suen Chang, who will be presented with her degree at the graduation on November 18.
Explaining that her interest in reading for a degree in communication arts and technology stemmed from a long held "passion for people" and being intrigued by human behaviours, the budding communications practitioner shared that the course of study offered by UTech "felt like the perfect fit for me because it offered a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the people who serve as the gatekeepers of media and influence our daily lives."
"My specialisations in public relations and advertising have played a crucial role in helping me fulfil this mission, allowing me to explore this area even further," she said.
That further exploration led Chang to landing a job in the Internal Communications Unit of a major financial group in Jamaica. She notes with joy, that the job offer came only three days after completing her final semester earlier this year.
"It's been amazing, and I've been lucky enough to work in my field of study," she shared.
Looking back fondly at her time studying at UTech, the high achiever who is graduating with a remarkable GPA of 3.81, lists among her most cherished moments the opportunity for regular photoshoots.
"While this experience might be quite specific to my programme as a media student, it was truly memorable. In our first year, we had a mandatory photography course, and as a group, we frequently visited Hope Gardens for impromptu photoshoots. Even during the pandemic, we managed to keep this activity going," she reflected, adding that the experience allowed the burgeoning media practitioners to hone their skills, build their portfolios, and network with industry professionals.
Despite being a consistent high achiever during all three years of her studies at UTech, the journey to completing her studies, however, was not without challenges. Like many other students at the tertiary level, she shared that "one of the main challenges I faced was the financial aspect of funding my degree".
"When I started university, my parents initially committed to covering the expenses for the first year out of their own pockets. However, witnessing their struggle to make the monthly payments made me realise that I needed to explore other options."
Seeking to ease the burden on her parents, she actively sought part-time employment, applied for scholarships, and took out a student loan. She was the proud recipient of several scholarships including the UTech, Ja 60th Anniversary Scholarship, Jamaican American Association of Central Florida Tertiary Student Scholarship, Youth Excel Scholarship, Family Health Education Service Youth Ministry Scholarship, and Ministry of Education Youth & Information Student Grant.
With supplemental funds secured however, the difficulty of working part-time while staying on top of the academic demands of her programme created its own set of challenges.
"Working from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, taking a break for a class at noon, and then attending group meetings from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm, all while keeping up with assignments and sometimes taking work home, was not an easy feat," the high achiever reflected, adding that another layer of difficulty was created because though some supervisors were understanding, not all of her part-time employers were willing to adjust shifts and working hours to accommodate changing semester schedules.
Underscoring the silver lining in these life and character-building experiences, Chang asserts: "this experience forced me to become extremely organised and continuously prioritise my responsibilities."
Throughout her studies, Chang says that her motivation to succeed was sustained by the mantra and a running joke among friends that "ambition would be the death of us", noting that "we recited it when things were high and especially when they were low. That small joke motivated me to succeed, to keep doing bigger and better."
Contemplating the future, Chang asserts, "I'm taking each day as it comes and finding my footing in the 'adult' world. I'm extremely interested in continuing my studies and further honing my skills, but until then I'm just letting Jesus take the wheel."