Coming into Her Own
By Tiffany King
Exploring the streets of Porto, Portugal, with her older sister wasn’t originally a part of Anja Bailey’s plans. It was supposed to be a study abroad trip for psychology students in 2020, but with the on-set of the pandemic, her trip, like so many others, was cancelled. With an Iberia Airlines voucher that was about to expire, Bailey decided to step outside her comfort zone and go to Porto with her sister Adiah on their own in December 2021—and what an awesome idea that turned out to be. If you had asked Bailey a few years ago if she was up to trying something new, she would’ve probably said no. Now, she considers herself a go-getter—ready to tackle new challenges and new experiences.
Bailey is graduating this December with a bachelor’s in psychology, with a concentration in community and organizational leadership, and a minor in business. Bailey is a native of Brunswick. She attended Brunswick High School and was a dual enrollment student at the College. When it came time to decide her next steps after high school, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. Her sister and parents all attended out-of-state colleges, but one of her goals was to graduate debt-free.
“Since I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and didn’t want to go to a college where I would have to pay a lot of out-of-pocket costs, and have to apply for loans, I decided to go right across the street from the high school and complete at least another year,” she said.
Through dual enrollment, Bailey had completed her freshman year of college before her high school graduation. Her plan to stay at the College for just another year soon changed into her earning her bachelors at Coastal.
“I was originally going to major in interdisciplinary studies, with a minor in communication,” Bailey said. “Then, I changed my mind and decided on psychology instead, especially since I wanted to go into human resources.”
She’s getting great insight into the field of human resources as a student worker for the College’s Human Resources Office.
“I’ve had so much fun. The women I work with are just phenomenal. I’ve worked there for three years and this is the longest position I’ve ever had. Everyone is amazing. I learned a lot through HR,” she said.
The HR staff thinks the same of her as well. She was described as an intelligent, personable, reliable person with a strong work ethic, and an all-around asset to the team. Her duties include being the welcoming and professional first point of contact for the office, clerical work, answering emails and phone calls, creating folders for new employees, assisting with important HR audits, and more. Anjee Tucker, human resources coordinator, said that Bailey’s attention to detail and understanding of the importance of confidentiality is evidence of her high standards.
What most students and parents might recognize Bailey for is from her job at the College bookstore. Her sister, who was also a dual enrollment student at the College, first worked in the bookstore when the vendor was Follett. They needed more people, so Anja was hired to help, while she still worked at her other job—Big City Cleaners on St. Simons Island.
“I was able to start college in 2019, so I got the job at the bookstore and was working on and off because I was still working at the dry cleaners. When Barnes & Noble came, Ms. Phyllis Broadwell (assistant vice president of human resources and auxiliary services) said, ‘I know you have experience working at the bookstore, do you think you and your sister can work there?’ My sister was leaving for College again, but I started in 2020 and helped Barnes & Noble set up and move everything in. I’ve been working there ever since,” she said.
Bailey is the bookseller for the store, helping students purchase and find their books upstairs. She helps students and parents get the best prices, shares whether or not a book is needed for a specific class, shows students how to use their financial aid to purchase books, how to order books, and find books themselves without help. Although Bailey is not the assistant manager of the bookstore, she’s been trained in the duties of one.
“I knew a lot of the things that they did. I was taught how to order books, how to look up books if they’re not on the shelves, and see what’s already been ordered,” Bailey said. “We also have an online system and I understood most of it. I would train people on how to use it. Even though I was a bookseller, I did more and had a lot of fun—especially with training people, which is what HR does.”
Bookstore Assistant Manager Teka McKay described Bailey as the light of the staff, an amazing leader, and a rock star. McKay talked of how Bailey runs the upstairs section of the bookstore, works behind the register, and helps to maintain the store.
Out of Her Shell
Getting to the point of being considered a leader didn’t come easy for Bailey. It took some time for her to get out of her shell, and that happened when she took advantage of different opportunities.
“I’m a more go-getter, outspoken person. I’m more ‘Yeah, I can do that.’ I used to be shy. I would stay to myself and wouldn’t be out there doing things. Now, I’m more comfortable with myself, but I still have a lot of ways to grow,” she said.
It first started with her job at Big City Cleaners when she was about 15 years old. She learned how to interact with customers, work the drive-thru, answer phones, and manage the business’ system.
“I started getting comfortable after a while and made friends, not just with the employees, but with the customers as well,” Bailey said. “Sometimes they would come in on Saturdays just to say hello and they would bring their children, so I got to watch them grow up.”
She brought these skills to the bookstore and her HR position, which further bloomed. Bailey is also a problem-solver and tries to resolve issues on her own before going to her supervisors. McKay can attest to this, saying that Bailey has a talent for turning around bad situations and for calming down frustrated customers. She feels the stress leave when Bailey is around.
“Most of the time, I can figure it out, like at the bookstore, and sometimes I have to ask for help. I’ll tell the manager the situation and what I’ve tried to do, and then we go about it a different way. Most of the time we can figure it out. So, I’m always trying to solve it. With all jobs, I’ll try to solve it myself,” she said.
The Result of Embracing New Things
Bailey still surprises herself at how much she’s changed over a few years. Embracing new things and change can lead to fantastic experiences and adventures, like her trip to Portugal. It was a weeklong trip and the first Bailey and her sister had taken by themselves. They went to a winery, did walking tours, road electric bikes, and stayed at an Airbnb that was a renovated fire station. They met people from South Korea, Spain, and one person who was considering whether to live in either Porto or Lisbon.
“The food was amazing; the people were amazing. We went at a really good time because it was off-season. A lot of people weren’t going to be there, and in December, it rains, but it didn’t rain that entire week,” Bailey said. “It rained a week before and a week after, so we hit the jackpot with that.”
Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Carla Bluhm, who has traveled to Portugal many times, recommended some sites and activities for Bailey’s trip. Bailey, in turn, did the same after her trip for other students who were going to study abroad in Portugal this past summer. She made a list of all the things she and her sister did, including enjoying food and restaurants. Bluhm and the students went to one of the cafés Bailey recommended, and they loved it.
“I talked to the students who were going on the trip. I told them about my experience, what we wore, what to expect, and all the activities we did,” Bailey said.
One of her main struggles that she overcame was being afraid of everything.
“I was always just a nervous person. I used to think people hated me and had mean opinions, but now it doesn’t bother me anymore,” she said. “I always struggled with accepting who I am, and now, I’m good and will say yes, I have come out of my shell. In 2019, I wouldn’t do anything, but I’ve grown, and I’m cool with things. I’m free. The support has really helped.”
The support that’s always been there as she’s changed and tried new things was her family. Bailey is a huge family person and loves them dearly.
“I want to thank my family for everything. I haven’t been the easiest person and they’ve put up with a lot,” Bailey said. “Thank you for supporting me through tough times. I always look back to how every moment I spend with them is a good memory. I just want to thank them for being there, and that I don’t have to hide in a little hole. I can reach out to them and ask for help. Especially, for pushing me to do things that I would’ve said no to.”
Bailey is excited about her future after graduation. She’s moving forward with the confidence of her family’s support and guidance.