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How the Winter Scholar Summit Helped Me Remember My "Why?"

At the beginning of this month, I felt like I had a plan for everything. I was majoring in Government, and I had a Plan A career path and Plan B career path. I told myself that majoring in both Latin American & Latino Studies (LALS) and Government would be great and beneficial. I love my LALS major and the classes I have taken for it. The thought of taking other Government classes that did not relate to Latin America, however, bored me. But I believed it was the best decision.

Being the over-achieving and ambitious person that I am, I thought through a few different plans for my future career. If Plan A didn’t work, it was okay because I had Plan B. Plan A consisted of working in the U.S. Department of State- more specifically, in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement. My plan was to, later in my career, become the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, and eventually the Secretary of State. Plan B was similar but instead, I would be in the U.S. Department of Justice, where I would work as a DEA attorney at the Office of Chief Counsel. Then, I planned to become the DEA Deputy Director, followed by the DEA Administrator, Deputy Attorney General, and finally, the Attorney General of the United States of America. My plans sounded beautiful to me, but I never asked myself why I had those goals.

However, during the EMERGE Scholar Summit, I learned one of the biggest and most needed pieces of advice/information. The whole event was amazing. I was reunited with EMERGE Scholars and EMERGE staff, met some amazing people in the networking session, and attended great sessions. Nonetheless, one thing stood out the most for me. One of the sessions, led by Judy Le, was about finding our strengths and values, and connecting them with the what. Essentially, we would find the why before we find the what. It was that moment when I realized that many of my goals did not have a reason other than “That sounds awesome!”

The minute I got home, I deleted my goals from my notes (yes, I had them written down on my notes) and decided to start from the beginning, asking myself the winning question: Why? I decided to change my Government major to a minor because after asking myself why I was majoring in Government, I noticed it was not actually something I enjoy completely. I had many why’s for my LALS major: I love learning about the cultures, languages, political and economic systems, and societies across the many countries. I find the differences and similarities fascinating. I just love it. Government - not so much.

Sure, now I may not have a plan and I do like plans, but now I feel a bit more prepared to ask the tough questions. I still have no idea what I want to do when I grow up, but I do know that I possess strengths and values that will help guide me.

Karen Banda is an EMERGE College Scholar and a current sophomore at Smith College. She is also the Founder and President of the EMERGE Scholar Board.


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