Who am I, what have I done, and who do I hope to become?
Now that I have introduced my blog, allow me to share a bit more about my educational/professional background and my career expectations:
My field is international affairs. I know it sounds broad, and I mean it to be. I chose this field precisely because it is broad and can involve pretty much anything, but with an international focus. In college and graduate school I tended to focus on politics, social issues, and economic development. For my future career, I would prefer something that emphasized research, analysis and writing, and the use of foreign languages. Again, I know, very broad, but that should be that I have a wider range of opportunities… but I guess only in an ideal world.
So, I hold a Bachelor of Arts, as I mentioned before, from a top 10 school in the U.S. (I think top 14 globally), where I double-majored in International Studies and Spanish and minored in Political Science, and graduated with honors in my first major. I earned a Master of Arts in International Affairs, also from a top 10 school, in the U.S., in International Affairs (see fpa.org), currently not worth the paper it’s written on. I say it’s not worth the paper it’s written on, because it has yet to be a factor when I have applied for jobs and actually gotten an interview, and then I have left it off my resume, and limited the descriptions of my jobs, and managed to at least get hired for part-time work in retail and entertainment.
In addition to the cheap paper with fancy words on them, I attended the Sorbonne in Paris so I actually speak French unlike the people who claim to when they don’t (I’ll address this later, what happened was amusing… after). I studied abroad in Ecuador, Brazil, and Cuba where I also did thesis research. (On my resume I say “sanctioned study abroad in Cuba” for people who want to ask me if I went through Mexico or Jamaica). I also attended Middlebury College (Middlebury, VT) on two separate occasions for Chinese and Portuguese.
More recently I have worked for the federal government and an international development organization. I didn’t apply to unpaid internships in college and graduate school except one that I unfortunately accepted, which was with the Department of State (I’ll explain why this was unfortunate later). I didn’t apply for unpaid internships because (1) I couldn’t afford them, and (2) I don’t really think I “needed the experience” and the latter is the only argument those hiring for unpaid internships lead and close with.
The first job I ever held, that wasn’t babysitting, was with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts picking up trash when I was 14 years old. And up until I graduated from graduate school I had always held a job except when in high school (not including senior fall) and then the two summers I was at Middlebury College when it wasn’t allowed. The second time I did attempt to work at the supermarket though because I was required to use all the money I had left in my bank accounts to attend.
So what led me on that path of international affairs?
My mother would say things to me in French and Spanish when I was growing up and I happened to be around the Spanish language and Hispanic people a lot, so I got this crazy idea to be fluent in Spanish and French, specifically by the time I finished high school. I also had a dream of living in France when I was 7 years old I think. So I made a plan.
In sixth grade I decided that I would stop taking Spanish at my new school and take Latin so I could learn other romance languages more easily, switch back to Spanish in high school and then start French in as soon as I could. This is what I decided in sixth grade in addition to deciding when I was in elementary school that I was going to live in France. As far as my plan for the languages, all that was accomplished including fluency, despite being told to take more history classes and physics. I never took physics. I pursued my dreams instead. And as for living in France, that kind of happened by accident. I had an opportunity before the Sorbonne and remember being so mad at my father when he wouldn’t let me go. The reason was valid though, because we did not have the money, but I was very naive then. It was in France that I decided to major in international affairs in college, again pursuing my dreams.
Why no unpaid internships?
In Massachusetts, you can (or at least could back then) work at 14. So, my parents said you can work, so work. They were not going to have me being idle over the summers. The job available then was “groundskeeper”, i.e. picking up trash in a low-income area. I am an excellent swimmer, so when I was 16 I started lifeguarding. From 14 years old on, I paid for my own clothes and entertainment, unless my parents decided to give me gifts. And boy was I shocked in college to hear about people getting their first job the summer after their freshman year in college. And now these people are in consulting firms earning a nice chunk of change or complaining about how people like me are unemployed or underemployed simply because they didn’t do the work. I knew the meaning of work long before them an can explain it in 5 different languages. (I can say it in seven — add Italian and Arabic).
So in college, I took that work ethic with me, and plus I had to pay for incidentals, and ideally start saving to pay off my loans, which didn’t happen. (I do admit that I could do a better job at saving my money). I worked while in college, not as much as others, but more than most. And like those putting in the max hours, I did it not for my resume, but for my wallet. That’s ironic because society now favors the brown-nosers and the resume fillers, but I digress…
First, I’m disappointed with how little people actually know about loans. In brief: You do the FAFSA you get an EFC (expected family contribution) number, you now how much you can apply for in federal loans. Low income families qualify for federal loans. For the rest, particularly the middle class, how much debt you have and how many children you have… no one cares. I know, I know, those things are within their control, but were they within mine as the child? (in reference to the debt) If you have good credit you can get a private loan (yay!). Also, you can drive an expensive car, i.e. Benz, Jaguar, and still receive aid. Also people were all excited about need-blind admissions in 2005… that was not a novelty.
I applied for scholarships for undergraduate school. Didn’t get any. I wasn’t smart enough. Had I gone to public school I might’ve been. I had gotten straight A’s until I switched to prestigious private school where I got a quality education but no perfect GPA. Makes me wonder what would’ve happened had I gone to a public university… who knows. I could’ve been more stressed out by the SAT, more interested in school rankings, financial offers, but no, I wanted to chase my dreams and my high school guidance counselor wanted to maintain the numbers.
Where I am now:
So thankfully my parents have good credit, mine right now is decent, frankly considering the amount of loans I have, I don’t see the point in trying. By the time I pay off my loans, especially at this rate, I’ll be able to improve my credit maybe two times over… But my parents used their good credit to get me private loans for college. I think I am a co-signer (I don’t like to look at the statements too often), and I do believe that I should at least be helping to pay them off. Considering all my education and experience, I thought I could be doing that by now. So that’s about $33K x 4 years, you can do the math, plus interest. It should be $40K but I did get a $4K scholarships, to be used for the four years (the scholarship was disorganized so it was discontinued), and then $7500 in Stafford Loans that I took out on my own. My parents have been paying off some of the private loans already because they just can’t move into deferrment and forebearance like those federal ones.
For graduate school I owe the government about $115K. So no, that’s not the $32K average the media likes to throw out there. Nor is it the debt that my peers talk about when two years after college they post on Facebook: “I’ve finally paid off my debt!” I had listened to them gripe in college and thought we had shared pain… they don’t know what finally is, just like they didn’t know what work was. Had I had this in credit card debt, I could declare bankruptcy… And this is why I say my Masters is not worth the paper it’s written on. It has not expanded my options, it has actually made it harder to find a job, two years there was more than two years at my undergrad institution, and I think my graduate school actually over-charged me. They have over-charged me before, which I addressed.
So that is a bit of my back story and why I started this blog with “A Dream Deferred.” I started out with dreams, a plan, and thought I did all the right things. I have been told I have an excellent resume, but… I find myself wearing a cheap uniform to work while showing guests to their seats, and working for Victoria’s Secret and being told I’m not qualified for supervisor because I don’t have the right experience… (To press buttons at a cash register, really?) I find myself making just above minimum wage, right back where I started when I was picking up trash. So, what then was the point of my education? I used to go to work and talk about international policy, Chinese investment in Latin America, and now? I work alongside mostly college drop-outs, without a plan, who don’t know how to dress for an interview, and focus on spending the little money they earn on fixing up a cheap car and alcohol at the club. What separates me from homelessness are parents who despite being more conservative than I am are not so conservative that they believe all children should be put out at 18.
I believed in education, I especially believed the mantra of “think of it as an investment in your future.” What future? To address what I alluded to in the first post, I have contemplated suicide, but to be truthful, I had thought about it before college, although with my current situation the thoughts had become more frequent. I do consider myself a rational person though, and I weigh the pros and cons of situations, and currently there are more cons for suicide: the financial and emotional burden on my family, plus the fact that for a number of reasons I can’t kill myself although I do think about the relief that death would bring to me… For a couple of days now, I haven’t thought about it though. When I don’t go into work, and when I don’t think about the over-priced paper I bought, I think that’s really when I can live day to day. It might also help that as I was writing this I realized I know where in this world to go to not be found, and I could survive there. I could give my parents the money they needed for my undergraduate education and forget about graduate school and its uselessness… I mean, up until now I have done what I was supposed to do, and it has been said “to do the same thing repeatedly and expect the same results is insane.”