Friday, February 24, 2012

A Brief Aside from Traveling

For first time in my life, if you don’t count my childhood dream of becoming an Olympic gold medalist in figure skating, I have failed. I spent this past summer interning at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Africa Program, and nannying on the side so that I could afford to keep an unpaid position. I worked from 9 am to 9 pm every day and spent anywhere from 1 to 3 hours commuting, depending on the bus schedule. At night and on the weekends, I studied for the GREs. Finally in late September, I decided that my lifestyle was not something that I could keep up for even another month so I came home to apply to graduate school.

After interning for a Congressman, a non-profit, and a think tank as well as studying abroad, I realized that my heart really lies in academics. As nerdy as it is to admit this, I loved writing my thesis. I enjoyed every minute of the interviews I conducted in Uganda. I realized that I have a talent for teaching when I spent my senior spring giving presentations on the Rwandan genocide at local high schools. And on a more emotional level, I have grown up on college campuses. When I was little my brother and I ran around the University of Missouri’s quad while we waited for our mom to get off of work at the museum, and I still go to work in my dad’s office at MTSU when I come home. I feel comforted by the smell of libraries, and I thoroughly enjoy editing my friends’ papers. In short, I felt and still feel that I have figured out what I want to do in my life. The next logical step, then, was getting the degrees I needed to become a professor.

While I didn’t expect to get into Princeton or Yale, I thought I had a chance at Wisconsin or Northwestern. But, as it turns out, on this trip I have received seven rejections from the seven schools I applied to. And looking back on it, I really honestly couldn’t have done anything differently. I had great grades, a personal statement that I am still proud of, solid recommendations, and plenty of summer internship experience. And that still wasn’t enough. I was not enough.

I am trying to stay positive, reminding myself that today I am not enough—this year I am not enough. But that next year or the year after I will be. That this is still the career that I want and, as I have said before, I will put my head down, toughen it out, and do whatever it is in my power to make this work.

But for the moment, I feel beaten down. I don’t really know what else to do. I have tried so hard to get a job, but the competition is fierce, and working a nannying job to gain experience with an unpaid internship has meant that I can barely afford to live in expensive cities like DC or New York. Even if I lived at home, saving every penny I earned this coming summer, I still would not be able to cover the costs of rent, food, transportation, and student loans. I don’t know what to do anymore. I obviously haven’t given up, but I have never felt so beaten down in my life.  Sometimes, no matter how hard you work or how much you sacrifice, there just aren’t any opportunities.  And where do you go from there?

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