In three weeks I will be boarding a plane for Edinburgh, Scotland. Shortly after arriving there I will move into a dorm at St. Andrews University and will begin a semester abroad. Finishing up an internship in the midst of preparing to move to another country is quite emblematic of my life at this point in time. I never stop moving, and there is always an adventure ahead. Truthfully, I think that is what college is for. It is a time to drink out of a fire hose and learn about yourself and the world you live in.
During this time of change, I find myself especially grateful. I am halfway through college, and the experiences I have had throughout the past two years are incredible. I’ve worked for Michelle Obama and her higher education initiative, I’ve traveled to new places, I’ve met and worked with some really incredible and inspiring people, I’ve gotten to work with some incredible student entrepreneurs at UM, and this summer got to intern at a tech start-up. Two years ago I was packing my bags to move into Alice Lloyd Hall, and today I’m packing my bags to move to another continent. In short, I’m grateful for these opportunities.
I could use this entire blog post to write about everything I learned this summer, but I don’t think anyone would be interested in the specifics. Instead, I want to write about how the investments that LSA and UM alumni have made in me throughout the past two years have taught me how to create value in organizations and shifted my career goals.
I came into the University planning to major in Education. At the time, I saw how education had vastly improved my life and many of my peers. It was a sort of a no-brainer. However, after meeting some peers that were working towards creating a better education system with their liberal arts degrees, I realized that degree would be more versatile and pertinent to what I wanted to do. My internship at the White House further showed me that you don’t have to be an education wonk to make a difference, you just have to care about listening to people. That, combined with this summer’s internship, have shown me that the value of my liberal arts degree lies in the critical thinking skills that I have obtained.
A final point – the most valuable lesson that I have learned through the past two years is how to make myself useful. The reality is, I am a twenty-year-old college student. While I am capable of doing good work, I do not always walk into internships with the exact skills or specific experiences to be perfect at my job. But nobody starts by understanding everything. Instead, it is most important to walk in with an open mind and simply ask yourself and those you work with, “How can I contribute?” With time I have gotten better at predicting where I can add value and make myself most helpful. As a result, I leave doors open even when the 2.5/3 month long internship ends.
This blog is a mix of many different thoughts that I have. However, I want to conclude with thanking UM for providing me with the financial support to make these opportunities a reality. I am incredibly appreciative for all of the support that I have received – I really would not have had all of these valuable, out-of-classroom experiences without your support. So, thank you.