Struggling a bit writing today’s post – I’m feeling a bit burned out and we’re not quite a third of the way through the blog challenge!
What I was wrong about that begins with the letter H is my higher education choices. I just turned 36 and I’m not sure if that’s too young to be turning into a grumpy old lady, but I’m going to say it – youth is wasted on the young. I had no idea what I wanted when I turned 18. Or rather, I thought I did but I was really wrong. I only applied to three colleges, all of which would be perfect for the person I am now, but none of which were perfect for the person I was then. I was only accepted by one of them–Gettysburg College–so that’s where I went…for one semester. Predictably (in retrospect, anyways) I quit after one semester. I went back to Buffalo and was a hell of a lot happier in the enormous, diverse, anonymous, no blondes from Connecticut allowed, state school.
But even after I got the type of school right, I still didn’t know what I wanted. I changed my major three times from political science to communication to an international studies do-it-yourself degree which I convinced my advisor to patch together for me because I just wanted to be done with school. I also spent three semesters studying abroad – the only choice I was definitely not wrong about. Everyone should study abroad. But during each semester abroad, I only studied topics that were relevant to the location I was in, except when I kept up with my German studies while I was in India. If you think German with an American accent is unnatural, try it with a Gujarati accent. And again, I don’t think I was wrong about taking locally relevant classes. I learned a lot, but I also ended up taking a lot of summer classes back in Buffalo to make up for the semesters of Vedic Philosophy, John Howard 101, and How to Cook the Perfect Bratwurst.
When I finished my BA (only 1 semester late!), I taught English as a Second Language overseas for five years. The only thing I knew about my undergraduate experience was that I had loved living out of the country and I didn’t want to stop and get a boring office job in Buffalo, NY. Teaching English was a great way to see the world.
But English was the only subject I hadn’t studied in undergrad. I didn’t have to. I was an English whiz in high school and tested out of taking any English classes at all in college. Of all the AP exams I took, English was the only one that did me any good. And since I didn’t have to take any English classes, why would I? I took to heart the foolish middle class America message that college is a time to explore and find out who you are, which while it might be in some aspects, in regards to academics I think I would have done better to use the opportunity to the grow the talent I already had.
So I taught English and about halfway through those five years, I started volunteering with displaced persons and internal refugees (Chechens, primarily) in Moscow. I became the volunteer and education coordinator at the Civic Assistance Committee in Moscow and after some years, I decided I wanted to do humanitarian work. I came back to the United States to get my MA and hopefully work for a large international agency afterward. This time, I did a much better job selecting my school, kind of. I got into all five schools I applied to, but that made me think I had underestimated myself. I had originally planned to apply to Johns Hopkins and schools of that caliber, but I got intimidated and simply didn’t. That was probably incredibly foolish.
Anyways, I did pick a school, got my degree in International Development, and what do you think I did after that? Went right back to working with language! I worked as a translation project coordinator for several years and now work as the managing editor for an awesome elearning company. What is wrong with me? The thing of it is…I love these jobs. They challenge me and keep me engaged. So why on earth didn’t I just get an MA in linguistics? I have absolutely no idea. I do think just the fact that I have a Master’s, regardless of area of expertise, was an important factor in landing my last two jobs, so I don’t regret it. And we’ve already learned that I am happy I ended up in Denver. But I can’t figure out what it is in me that keeps trying to go in other directions. Somebody please stop me if I ever decide to go for a PhD!
Curious about what everyone else is writing for the A to Z Blog Challenge? Me too! I’m using a random number generator to select three blogs from my fellow contributors to read each day. Here are today’s discoveries: