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Student of the Month: Olivia Zalecki

Olivia Zalecki
Olivia Zalecki is our student of the month.

Meet Olivia Zalecki, our student of the month.

Hometown: Charlotte, NC

Class:  Junior

Majors: Foreign Languages and Literatures (Chinese); Political Science (International Politics)

Sample Courses:

  • Introduction to Political Theory
  • Asian Religions
  • Hong Kong Cinema


  • Founder and President, Adopted Students Union at NC State
  • Study Abroad in Manchester, England, Fall 2017
  • Study Abroad in Nanjing, China, Summer 2016
  • Executive Board Member, NC State St. Jude Up ‘til Dawn
  • Tutor, Academic Support for Student Athletes, Spring 2017
  • Community Assistant, Avent Ferry Complex, Fall 2016


  • Caldwell Fellow
  • Humanities and Social Sciences International Connections Scholarship
  • Pack Abroad Photojournalist Scholarship
  • Abraham Holtzman Scholarship
  • University Scholars Program

Postgraduate/Career Goal:  I plan to attend graduate school for international relations. Ideally, I would like to work for the United Nations or as a language officer for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Why did you select Humanities and Social Sciences?

I chose this college because I love learning about different people and emphasizing storytelling rather than numbers.    

What has been your favorite course?

One favorite course was ENG 101, Academic Writing and Research, with Dr. Soren Palmer. That class helped to set me up as a writer for the rest of my courses here. We were able to select topics that were important to us; it was challenging and rewarding. I also enjoyed PHI 205, Introduction to Philosophy, with Dr. Eric Carter. He created a very interactive environment in the classroom, and I felt that he was open-minded and encouraged students to offer their sincere opinions. Dr. Nathaniel Isaacson in Foreign Languages has been a wonderful mentor and advisor. I can simply stop by his office to chat and he shows genuine care for me.

What have you learned from your study abroad experiences?

I have viewed my experiences as formative in my growth as a person. One of the most important lessons I learned is that I am capable of much more than I gave myself credit for. Landing in a new country without knowledge of how to do simple things such as get on the public bus, or where to buy groceries, was daunting. Knowledge of these seemingly menial tasks allowed me to reflect on how grateful I am for something I so often took for granted, my independence. It was both humbling and necessary for me to be okay with being vulnerable. Vulnerability is how we allow ourselves to grow. 

What has been your biggest challenge at NC State?

One of my biggest challenges has been maintaining a balance between “expectations” and what I want. I have wondered if I should aim for a 4.0 or a load of extracurricular activities simply because I thought I “should,” or instead consider what activities and goals make me feel good at the end of the day.  My time here would be meaningless if I was not achieving the specific learning and growth that I was seeking. 

What advice would you give incoming students?

Don’t be too rigid in your ideas of what college is like. There is no one college experience; you do not have to do things in a certain order, participate in specific activities, or have a given number of friends.  You design your own campus experience and seek to make yourself happy and fulfilled.