With only eight more days left of work and 12 more days until I move out of my apartment, the College of William and Mary in Washington spring 2015 semester is coming to a close.
My program has done some pretty incredible things, whether it was going on a cherry blossom cruise on the Potomac River overlooking the monuments or meeting and chatting with new White House Communications Director Jen Psaki ’00.
This semester has been both challenging and inspiring. From sitting in our twice-a-week class each Tuesday or Thursday, listening to College alumni offer us career advice each Friday and working full-time at our internships, I have gained — in a matter of three months — a tremendous amount of time to reflect on my aspirations and passions and received a kick in the butt about the real world.
When I got back from my College summer study abroad program in Cambridge, England, I swore I was a changed person. Summer study abroad is more like an extended vacation with peers. I promised myself before studying abroad that I would say “yes” to everything in England. I promised myself to make new friends, try new experiences and free myself from the stressed-out student I am on campus.
My time in Cambridge was one of the happiest moments of my life — tied with this program. But, this program was much, much different. Sure, I matured and became more cultured while in Cambridge, but this program gave me a look into adulthood that seems distant, yet in reality, is right around the corner.
And what did I learn from all this? Always, always, always take every opportunity that comes your way.
I think I speak for the rest of my program and myself when I say that we all stepped out of our comfort zones this semester. Having never lived in Washington, the Metro System was like a foreign language to me in January. Now, I can probably draw a color-coded map for you with 99 percent accuracy. Having never previously had a class before 10 a.m., I was never more than ten minutes late for my 8:45 a.m. start time at work this semester. Having never worked anywhere but my local dance studio, I now understand the 9-6 work day and the exhaustion, laziness and stress that comes from it.
Some people in my program made a new best friend on this trip. Some people in my program learned a new skill, like Photoshop or media “clippings.” Some people found out that what they believed was their career plan is not in an area they are truly passionate about. Some people decided they definitely want to work on a campaign, perhaps the next presidential one.
All of us discovered one thing for certain: success is not handed to you. Through our own personal professional experiences and the stories from each of our guest speakers, we learned the most successful figures in Washington worked relentlessly to get there.
We at the College already have one of the greatest advantages. We graduated from a university that makes people go “ooh” and “ahh” when we tell them what school we attended. That will get you to the interview stage, maybe. From there, it’s about the passion, enthusiasm, efficiency, and knowledge you bring to the table.
My supervisor summed it up perfectly when she said, “You get far in life if you are easy to get along with. No one wants to work with someone they can’t even stand being around.”
If you are passionate about what you are doing, then happiness and likeability is unavoidable. My internship and living experience brought me the utmost happiness and reminded me of what really matters: making myself someone who — I hope — the people in my office liked.
The test grades and essays we all stress way too hard over are irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. My interviews don’t ask me about my transcript, they ask me what I am passionate about and what I have done thus far that indicates determination and drive.
I am leaving this semester with more motivation and excitement about the real world I once fretted and stressed about. We feel trapped in Williamsburg yet seek comfort in our community’s limitations. Our responsibilities span from participating in clubs, to getting good test grades, to doing laundry every few weeks. Waking up every morning and looking forward to going to work and making an impact is a feeling unlike any other, and I can confidently say that I’ve never felt that kind of morning excitement when waking up for class at the College.
There is not much I can say about the program that will do justice to the experiences and opportunities it offers. I have grown as a student, professional and person, and I don’t doubt that I will look at these three and a half months as the best part of my college experience.
Apply for the William and Mary in Washington Program. I promise you will love it.