“Life is short so you gotta do what you want because we’ll all eventually die!”
This is what I said a lot to fellow IES Abroad students and the response I got. Usually I said it to convince someone to try something new, such as surfing. But I seriously mean it beyond that aspect. Before I close my eyes and become unconscious of my surroundings, I want to have done what I want in my life.
Throughout my academic year abroad, I found it challenging to balance my “career” and my wanderlust. Everybody lectured me that I’m supposed to start from a coffee-fetching internship my freshman summer to expand my professional network, land a summer internship position at a dream company the summer following my junior year, and finish with a full-time return offer. I started panicking around last November when I was studying in Prague and began my internship hunt. Over the winter break, I volunteered in Belgrade, Serbia and spent most of my spare time editing resumes and cover letters. I applied to around 20 internships, sent follow-up emails when not receiving responses, and simply were ghosted by most of them. My friends from home were working as research assistants for consulting companies back then, so I thought the same position could look good on my resume too, whatever that means. I looked into those research positions and worked part-time remotely for several consulting projects for a few weeks. When I flew to Morocco, I was still fruitless in my internship search. I had to prioritize Arabic learning over my internship search because I was enrolled in an intensive Arabic study session, and ended up completing three semesters of Tulane-equivalent Arabic content in just one semester. I found that when I worry less about my “career”, I get to really focus on learning and hone my skills.
After being rejected from one last potential internship, I decided to think about what I want to do and how I want to develop my skills outside the cliché model. My summer plan is to keep learning French and Spanish, travel to Latin America - where I always desired to visit, practice Spanish there and, upon returning, produce video content for nonprofit organizations in New Orleans. Back at Tulane, I coordinated service learning classes and worked extensively with nonprofits. While doing amazing work, they always lack the funding. I want to produce video content for them to market themselves and gain more exposure while building up my portfolio.
So before I die, I know I want to see more of this world, have a fulfilling job where I get to utilize my multi-lingual proficiency to communicate and video production skills to produce thought-provoking media content, and stay directly or indirectly involved with initiatives towards gender equity. I haven’t figured out what my ideal job looks like, and I will keep exploring by doing research and talking to alums in different industries for sure, but I’m not going to accept the one-type-fits-all model of landing a job and living a fulfilling life, whatever that means. Over the past year abroad, I found that my happiest moments were all pretty cheap (in financial terms) and all happened at organic, spontaneous moments. Life is full of uncertainties, and half of the pleasure is to discover them along the way.
The extreme sports mentioned in this post were undertaken during the student’s free time and were not sponsored by IES Abroad. For students considering an IES Abroad Rabat program, please be aware that insurance included in the cost of your program does not cover surfing.
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<p>Speaking fluent Mandarin Chinese, English, and conversational Czech, Yu Chen is currently looking to perfect his French during his upcoming semester abroad in Rabat. Passionate about revealing social and structural inequalities around the world through film and media, Yu Chen is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Gender & Sexuality Studies and Digital Media Production.</p><p>Previously, Yu Chen has studied environmental issues in Okinawa, conducted research on social practice art in Puerto Rico, exchanged at the Film & TV School of Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, and tasted 44-year-old homemade Serbian Rakija in Belgrade.</p>