Monday, August 20, 2012

How Did I Get Here?

Senior year at Syracuse started last August with me in a sticky situation.

During the summer that I spent in DC, I finally admitted to myself as well as those close around me that law school was not the right decision post-Syracuse. I had thought for many months that my decision to go to law school may not be the best approach to do for my intended career path.

At the beginning of college, I wanted to go to law school and had my heart set on doing either civil or real estate law. From there, I imagined entering the world of politics and government after several years.  And yes, to those reading, I plan on running for president. I have planned on doing so since I was a child.

Joining mock trial in the first week of freshman year, I threw my heart into the organization and still have some close friends because of it. But, after interning for two different attorneys the summer before sophomore year, I knew my goals had changed.  I was going to start taking more public policy courses including being a TA. Mock trial was a criminal case that year, and to be frank, my interest decreased dramatically. Taking a course related to the criminal justice system, I suffered the entire semester. After the first semester, I knew deep down that things were going to change.

During my winter break that year, I began applying for internships. Having the blessing from my parents to pursue internships out-of-state, and specifically in larger cities, I took BIG chances.  DC, Boston, New York were all possibilities.

Also, during break, I made my decision to quit mock trial. I stayed on for the first few weeks after the break for a competition, but for my final years at Syracuse, I never went back. The summer after sophomore year, I interned for the Office of Governor Deval Patrick in Boston. Even working part-time, I loved it. My position was in legislative affairs, and to be honest, I enjoyed knowing and reading specific parts of bills.

Going abroad the first semester of junior year, I kept realizing that perhaps law school might not be the right place. London truly became my favorite city. Traveling was a  new hobby, and my political science courses left me with wanting more and more. I gained a new mentor that semester in Dr. Wolfgang Deckers, and he told me he never saw me pursuing law school. He believed that my heart was set on something entirely different. He was right, and although we discussed different opportunities, I didn't want to admit yet that law school was wrong.

After the semester abroad, I returned and threw myself into LSAT preparation. I hated it. I never enjoyed going to tutoring classes or even prepping. Material that is based on actual reasoning that has to be done in law school did not capture my interest.

What I loved? My internship that semester working at the Syracuse Housing Authority, my history classes on the Cold War, and my desire to apply for political internships once more. Taking the test in June, I walked out knowing that whatever the score would be, I was not entirely sure of myself and my future decisions.

During the semester I returned back from being abroad, I was also given the opportunity to participate in the Dulye Leadership Experience. Mentors were developed instantly, and throughout that weekend, I began my self-realization process even more quickly. I came home that weekend refreshed.

So, that brings us back to DC last summer. Interning for the Department of Homeland Security, I was involved in an area that I had wanted to learn more about as well as still being in a political atmosphere. By that time, I had added my history major and spent the summer learning more and more about past and present politicians. But, then the news came that I would have to retake the LSAT in October. Devastated, I finally broke down following a Josh Groban concert. There was a specific song, "You are Loved, Don't Give Up." It's always been sentimental to me, but that day it put me over the top. I knew that law school wasn't right. I'd be miserable if I went. I came home crying on the phone to my Mom, and she told me what I always knew.

"Your father and I will stick by with you whatever you want to do."

Packing up and returning to Syracuse last fall, I stuck the LSAT out one more time, only improving slightly. When it came to apply to law school, I also had begun my grad school applications. It was something that both my parents and I discussed.  Essentially, I applied to a slew of programs that focused on government and public policy. Yet, there was a twist. I have a keen interest in eventually working for the State Department or in the area of international affairs and relations. Thus, all of the graduate schools that I applied to were in London.

I did actually submit one law school application and received an acceptance. But, right before finals week ended in the fall semester, I was admitted to University College London (UCL). I never applied to another law school, and I never looked back. I knew that while I had other grad school applications to hear back on, I would be moving to London in the following fall. Right before Christmas, I received two more acceptances on the same day.

Many at this point in my journey argued two different points. The first was that it was clearly what I wanted to do, and what many would dream of doing. UCL was ranked as one of the best world universities. The other point was that I was running away from life here. To those who dissented, I'm still standing by my dream and what I want to do in my life. Two years of learning a subject area that I thrive for, the option to do a dual degree program, and to learn more about myself is what I need.

And, that brings us to the day I got accepted to the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

My top choice accepted to me on the first day of my last semester at Syracuse. I think it was fitting.

I got accepted to Syracuse late in my application process period. Many in high school had made similar remarks on my application to Syracuse as did those who commented about applying to LSE.  With my acceptance into the Master's in Public Administration (Public and Economic Policy stream), I knew I had a plan. I was still waiting for one more graduate school to notify me about my decision. It came in March with a rejection. By then, though, LSE was all I could think about. My final graduate school total? 7/8.

As the final semester at Syracuse flew by, I kept receiving reminders that my decision not to pursue law school was the best one that I had made. Working on my honors thesis [Social Media & its Potential Effects on Civic Engagement], I would stay up for hours reading new political books and articles. Discovery of new ideas in a field that I had passion for was what I had always wanted in my life. My internship the prior semester with the Office of Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand and my position with the U.S. Department of State through the Virtual Student Foreign Service Program solidified my goals in my mind.

At Commencement, I knew that I had a plan. THE RIGHT PLAN. I have not looked back and wondered if I should have kept applying to law school. Nor, have I wondered what it would be like starting law school this week as many of my friends have. Instead, I'm looking forward.

As I've stated on this blog numerous times before, leaving Syracuse was very hard. I'm currently jealous of everyone moving back this week. Yet, I know I will always have Syracuse, but my journey to continue to become the person I want to be begins in less than a month at LSE. LSE will be two years, and from there, maybe I'll pursue a job, my PhD, or see whatever else lands on my plate.

So, the point of this whole post? To tell my story. Many don't know how I changed my mind, and maybe, it will help someone else out in the future.

I'll leave you with the song that I listened to for days when I had my breakdown last summer. It's still a favorite, and it now has even more of a special meaning behind it. It reminds me to always be true to myself.