Krystal Bernheardt is wrapping-up her first year as a Communication major and a Political Science and English double minor. Last Fall, she received the Dean’s Academic Excellence Scholarship for the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology (FCAT). We checked in with Krystal to see how she navigated first year and she shared her top tips for incoming students.

In your own words, how would you describe the study of communications?

We learned in CMNS 110 there really isn’t just one definition of “communication,” and that is actually one of my favorite things about studying it. I would describe the study of communication as an attempt to understand the deeper meaning and bigger message behind everything in the media.

What is the best part about being a Communication student?

There are so many great things about being a Communication student, but I think the best part is the variety that it allows you both in and out of university. While studying communications a vast array of classes are offered that allow students to study the subject from several different viewpoints (political, economic, popular culture, etc) and after receiving your degree there are so many career possibilities. I think Communication is the best degree because you will never end up stuck doing something you don’t like;, you can do almost anything.

What has been your favourite Communication class so far?

I really enjoyed CMNS 220 (Understanding Television) for two reasons; first, Jody Baker is one of the best professors I’ve ever had. He made lectures and assignments interesting and is very passionate about the subject and his students’ success. I highly recommend every CMNS student take a class with him. The second reason is because it’s a really great foundation for future classes. It helped me recognize a lot of messages are created below the surface of media content.

How did you navigate your first year at SFU and what advice would you give to prospective SFU students?

I got very lucky in my first year to have become a part of an incredible and accomplished group of women studying at SFU who showed me the ropes (and made sure I didn’t get lost in the AQ). I had several mentors to look up to and to for guidance and support. I would highly recommend anyone coming into Communication to get involved in the SFU community and connect with people who are studying what you are, because nothing beats a good role model!

Oh, also download the SFU app, it has maps!

We noticed that you were very involved on campus in your first year. How do you find balance between extracurricular activities and academic studies?

Getting involved on campus has been the highlight of my first year without a doubt! With the support system I have developed through extracurricular activities and the incredible connections I have made at SFU, I have managed to achieve a 4.0 GPA, log over 50 hours of volunteer work, serve on an executive board for an international organization, and have a ridiculous amount of fun (and yes, coffee) while doing it!

School can be challenging and doing well in university can seem difficult, and it helps to find a balance. Nobody can work all day and night, it is important for your mental health to have an outlet, there are so many amazing organizations and clubs at SFU and if you put yourself out there I am sure you will find the perfect fit! Do something extraordinary in your years here, whether you become a debate champion, a Kappa sister, or even a quidditch prodigy, find your SFU family and these will be the best years of your life!

What does it take to succeed in Communication, and what do you hope to get out of your degree?

Do the readings!!

That one sentence is my greatest piece of advice to every communication student. In Communication, you will be given theories and articles written by some incredibly brilliant and interesting people and if you pay attention in your lectures and apply what you learn in them to a critical reading of these pieces you will do well.  Look at the bigger picture always and relate everything to your real life (because this program will alter how you see the world, for the better) and get ready to write a lot of papers!

Finally, listen to what everyone who talks to you at orientation says, they know what they’re talking about! Personally, I’m not sure what I want to get out of my degree, I’m still trying to figure that out; regardless of what I choose I know that I am going to enter the real world equipped not only with a piece of paper or a check mark on an interviewer’s list. I am going to leave SFU with years of experience, useful knowledge, good memories, some amazing friends, and the skills to succeed!