Out of the vast majority of college students, few can successfully manage the difficulties of classes, internships, and networking, all while determining their true calling in life. But Paola Chinchilla and Mariah Clinkscales, both students in the Burnett Honors College, seem to have made it into that select group. Paola (they/them/theirs) wasn’t always certain of what they wanted to study. After considering a few different majors, they settled on a double major in political science and radio/television, with a minor in legal studies. Paola’s journey to determine their course of study came with a small amount of trial and error. Originally starting out as a film major, they explain, “I really liked the production side of things and I was like, ‘Man I really like radio—film is cool and all, but I feel like the skills for TV are more transferable to film than vice versa.’” The political science major and legal studies minor came later, after Paola gave themself time to decide what they truly enjoyed studying. Mariah (she/her/hers), whose parents both worked for a local news station in her hometown of Lake Mary, FL, says her desire to study film began at a young age. “I’ve always been exposed to video-type media and knew I enjoyed it”, she says. After ruling out journalism and animation as possible majors (“I realized I can't draw, at least not well enough,” she jokes), Mariah settled on film.
Now in their fourth years at UCF, Paola and Mariah have both picked up sage advice from their experiences. Mariah’s advice for other students is simple. She states, “I know everyone says this, but get involved in literally anything.” She explains that, especially for film majors, putting oneself out there is essential for growth, both academically and otherwise. If a student limits themselves to only attending class, they will miss out on friendships, professional connections, and fun experiences in general. Paola echoes this sentiment, adding, “Say yes to opportunities.” They give the example of a fellow student who needs help filming a project. Saying “yes” to something like this not only helps out this peer, but also provides the chance to make connections and gain memorable college experiences.
It’s evident that Paola and Mariah have followed their own advice. Both have had several opportunities during their undergraduate careers to hone their skills and develop their interests. Mariah’s work with UCF’s marching band, the Marching Knights (the MKs), is the experience that she feels has benefited her the most. Having marched all four years of college, Mariah was pleased when the band director approached her with the idea to start a video team for the Marching Knights. As a film major with minors in music and mass communications, working for the MKs was the perfect combination for Mariah, allowing her to advance both her film and music education. Though Paola has also filmed for the MKs (“I play camera for the band”, they quip), the opportunity they feel aided them the most was their internship with 90.7 WMFE, the local NPR radio station in Orlando. After completing a production internship in the summer of 2019, Paola was recently called in to help the station with another project, coming out at the end of the month. Though both Mariah and Paola aren’t exactly sure of their next steps after graduation, they both agree they’d like to stay in Orlando for its many opportunities, people to meet, and things to do. With their talent and commitment to excellence, it’s clear that they both have bright futures ahead of them.