Every time I speak to one of my co-workers about my HBCU experience, they always ask one question.
"Would you do it again if you could?"
My answer is always an immediate “YES!”
The main reason I chose Claflin University (at the time Claflin College) was the size of the student body, as well as the close relationship that the students had with the professors.
It was invaluable!
Previously, I attended Upsala College, in East Orange, N.J., with 60 students to a classroom. The interaction was limited and I felt that some of the professors didn't know who I was, even though I participated in the classes.
When I arrived in Orangeburg in the fall of 1992, the mass communications department was just getting off the ground.
One of the benefits of being a student on a small campus was that everyone pretty much knew each other. And as I mentioned earlier, there was a close relationship between the student body and professors, some relationships that I still carry with me almost 20 years after graduating.
Like most students who were away from home for the first time, the temptation of what was out there was great, especially for a 19-year-old young man.
I knew I wanted to be involved in mass communications, but I have to admit that my first semester was challenging. It got to the point where my advisor called me into her office and challenged me. I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. She asked if I wanted to get sent back to New York as a failure, and deal with my mother's reaction knowing that she wasted money sending me 650 miles away to school in vain.
Of course I said no. I also had department professors that were with me along the way and kept me straight.
My junior year of 1995 was the year that changed my life forever. I was one of eight students approached about participating in the Host Broadcast Training Program in Atlanta.
It was an internship that, if completed, offered you a chance to apply for a position at the 1996 Summer Olympics, which were being held in Atlanta the following summer.
I jumped at the chance.
Not only did I complete the program, but I was also hired as a videotape logger for the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) during the Olympic Games. The experience I received, I still take with me every day.
One thing I can honestly say is that the people I encountered during that summer who never heard of Claflin knew about Claflin at the end of the Games.
I am currently a photojournalist for the local CBS station here in Columbia, S.C.
It is only about 40 minutes away from my college town of Orangeburg, so I still go back and speak to the students whenever I can.
The biggest change now is that the mass communications department has grown by leaps and bounds since my days as a student, and with the growth of social media, the world has definitely changed altogether.
The one thing I always tell students now is that they have the world at their fingertips and they need to take advantage of it while they can.
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Chris Brathwaite is a 1997 graduate of Claflin College