Swimming is an important part of Haley Wallis' Albion College experience, but the junior realized that it was time to spend a semester in an off-campus program working on professional development.
Wallis spent the fall semester in Philadelphia where, in addition to taking classes in marketing and a power and authority course that combined philosophy and sociology, the communication studies major put her skills to use bringing attention to events at the Morris House Hotel to a younger demographic.
"I knew I had a lot of growing up to do at the end of the semester (last May)," Wallis said. "I wanted to take myself out of my comfort zone because I know I'm not going to be comfortable for the rest of my life. Coaches Jake Taber and Mary Ann Egnatuk have always taught us to push ourselves not only in the pool, but in everything you do.
"While I may not know what I want to do after graduation, I know what kind of environment I want to work in," she added. "I have more of a drive to be passionate about life and relationships."
In addition to the usual weddings and holiday parties at the boutique hotel in a neighborhood steeped in history, Wallis worked to introduce a new events like a Christmas beer garden and another aimed at matching individuals interested in adopting a pet.
"By no means am I interested in a career in the hospitality industry, but I chose it for my internship because it offered a broad overview of skills to learn," Wallis said, noting that the opportunity to meet new people, make new experiences and developing skills in Excel were among of the most important experiences from she gained.
While she would encourage anyone to spend a semester off campus, the experience taught her to appreciate the effort it takes to continue the relationships she had started in Albion.
In some ways, it was never like she was gone for half of the academic year. She was given a leadership position in the Delta Gamma sorority and her swimming teammates were a constant source of support through frequent contact.
"I have never loved Albion more than when I was away," Wallis said. "Being away was hard because I didn't see people face-to-face. I didn't think I would hear from anybody, but the sorority and team were always checking in on me, keeping me updated and always making sure I was having a good time. The distance really makes the heart grow fonder."
And, of course, it rekindled her passion for swimming.
"It was shocking how much I missed swimming," Wallis said. "It's so cheesy, but you don't know what you have until it's gone. I found the love and joy I have for the sport.
"I always feel better about myself when I have order and a plan for my day and when I get to see my closest friends – what I would call family," she added.
Get the latest information on the team by following @AlbionSwimming on Twitter. General athletics news can be found at @gobrits on Twitter and Albion College Athletics on Facebook