Alyssa Reimenschneider, Study Abroad – London, England

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I have no idea what to do with my life.

Correction: I have no idea what to do as a career.

The problem is, society equivocates the two.

I know who I am. I love art and literature, film and foreign languages, nature and animals, culture and cooking. I want to travel and learn, create and discover, explore my potential, make a difference, make something lasting. There are so many things I’m interested in, so much I want to do. How can I squeeze all of my goals, all of my hopes, all of myself into one specific career path or job description?

Answer: I can’t.

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It’s not like I haven’t tried. I began my search for the perfect career very early. In kindergarten, the plan was to be a zoologist. In first grade, it shifted to a veterinarian. Then in second grade, I changed my mind again and set my sights on being an astronomer. Then an artist. A novelist. An animator. A Japanese translator. A graphic designer. An editor. A professor. Finally, I just had to admit the most difficult thing. What do I want to be? I don’t know.

It’s hard to take a different path from everyone else. It’s hard to be a creative arts major when the people championing “the real world” would prefer to hear that you’re pursuing something with an immediate, specific outcome. It’s even harder, when those people ask smugly what your plan is, to realize you’re not sure. And the world makes it that way. Society induces that pressure. Before you’re out of high school, you’re expected to have chosen a professional pathway, and during college, you’re supposed to be sure – or change your mind completely and find your passion in something else. Either way, you feel obligated to have a ready answer whenever anyone asks that dreaded, used-up question: “what will you do with that?”

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But in my experience, there is no “aha” moment. No epiphany. No certainty. Even if there was, I don’t know if I’d be any happier, because I just can’t see myself, my whole life, as a job title.

So when I heard that CAPA had an internship placement program that could provide you with work experience in an industry of your choosing, I honestly didn’t think it was for me. The serious professional world, and those that enthusiastically sought to become part of it, had always made me feel closed in, and I didn’t know if I could find a placement where I’d fit, an experience that would be relevant to my interests. But I thought about it, and I decided to take a chance. So what if I didn’t know exactly what I wanted out of my career? Maybe this would help me figure that out.

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I asked for an internship related to books, writing or art, and the internships team placed me with a small, independent publishing house, which – to my surprise – seemed like the perfect fit. And while I haven’t been editing manuscripts or choosing new titles or designing book jackets, I have gained a lot of knowledge about the publishing industry even through the little tasks. I’ve learned how books are marketed and sold, what advance information means, the differences between British and American publishing, and I’ve picked up a lot of bonus knowledge about art, music, history, nature and culture through the subject matter of the titles being released.

And I’ve gained more than just industry knowledge. It’s been a cultural experience too – I’ve learned about office culture in a way I never could from any part-time job I’ll have in college, and I’ve learned about British culture in a way I couldn’t just by observing it on the streets. And even though I haven’t had that “aha” moment yet, haven’t found a specific niche, I’ve felt an opening of the avenues of possibility, and I think I’ve grown.

Do I know exactly what I want to do with my life? No. But I know that when I decide, I can do anything I want.

 

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