When people think about studying away, there is generally a specific picture that comes to mind: a foreign country in Europe, somewhere in Africa or maybe a Latin American country. As a freshman, that was the picture I had in my head too. I wanted to go to Ecuador or Spain. However, my narrative changed as my college career progressed.
When I first came to college, I was majoring in journalism and minoring in Spanish. However, before my sophomore year, I decided not to minor in Spanish and to instead declare a double major in journalism and political science. While I was unsure about how my college journey would look from that point on, declaring my double major was the best decision I could have made.
Even though I decided I wasn’t going to study away internationally, I still had the burning desire to study away SOMEWHERE. The semester that I declared my major in political science, I was given a piece of paper that presented me with all of the study away options for political science students: High Sierra, Oxford, and Washington D.C., to name a few.
As soon as I saw that city on that sheet of paper, I knew that was exactly where I was going to go. Best Semester, a study away program that partners with CCCU schools, has the American Studies Program in Washington D.C. I decided to apply and was accepted fairly quickly. One of the most prominent components of this study away program is that each student participates in an internship of their choice. The coordinator helps students find potential places to apply but ultimately it is up to the students. I applied for three internships and was offered all three, but I landed on the best one: an editorial internship for the Center for Public Justice (CPJ).
Interning at CPJ changed the trajectory of my career. While I was there, I was constantly editing articles. And when I say constantly, I mean constantly. What I learned in the midst of this was that I love editing. It is one of my greatest joys! I learned so much about various human rights issues that are present in the U.S. and how to view those issues through both a Christian worldview and a basic humanitarian one.
Beyond just interning and learning about strategic communications, I was given so many opportunities to meet incredible people working in the fields I want to pursue. However, in the midst of these experiences, it was difficult for me to fully come to terms with how my interests were changing and evolving.
For most of my life, I have wanted to be strictly a journalist. I was never interested in communications, marketing or social media; just journalism. So about a month into my study away experience, I had an existential crisis: I didn’t think I wanted to be a journalist anymore. I was doing social media development for my internship, and I was thoroughly enjoying the strategic communications development project for my class. Neither of these things are inherently journalism, and I thought that enjoying them and wanting to pursue them meant that I could no longer pursue journalism.
My life radically changed when I realized how much of a lie that was. Doubting my dreams and ambitions propelled me into an entirely new facet of my vocational goals. I learned that being interested and skilled in these other areas would only broaden my potential career opportunities.
Being in D.C. and having the internship that I did, I learned that the intersection of faith and politics is messy; it is difficult to determine and even more difficult to live out. As a double major in journalism and political science at a Christian university, it can be easy to feel like I need to fall into one way of thinking. As a Christian, I have to think one way, but as a human and young woman, I often times think the opposite of what I “should.” However, I discovered that there is no specific way that we are required to think. God gave us brains, emotions and convictions for a reason; it is up to us to decide what those look like in our day-to-day lives.
Studying away in D.C. was one of the best decisions I have made in my college career. If I had decided to go somewhere else or study something else, I would still be confused about my calling and uncertain about my opinions on a variety of topics. This study away program, while unconventional as it’s still in the U.S., changed my life and my outlook on what I am capable of as a journalist and human being.
I would encourage anyone and everyone to pursue something outside of your comfort zone. Study in a place you never thought of before; take a class distinctly outside of your major; do something that will propel you toward your vocational purpose and find those things that set your soul on fire. Be bold and be fearless in the pursuit of whatever the Lord calls you to, especially if takes you to a new place. I was, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.