A Penn Road Less Travelled By: A Career in International Development

By Hannah Peterson (C ’12)

“Wow, that’s so amazing. I wish I could do something like that!”

“I’m so jealous of you. You’re actually going to be helping people, while I’m sitting stuck at my desk all day”.

“That’s such a great decision, I wish I had decided to travel while I was young.”

These were the responses I heard over and over again by my friends, classmates and family when telling them my decision to move to Nicaragua to work for a community development non-profit after graduation.  There were feelings of jealousy, regret and paralysis, and I couldn’t understand it, because there was absolutely nothing stopping them from making my same decision.

As I was starting my final year at Penn I was stuck in the age-old dilemma of coming to terms with my future. I put on that pants suit I had spent treacherous hours searching for in the mall the summer before.  I bought myself one of those fancy leather Penn folders and I pasted a smile on my face.  I walked around the OCR career fairs pretending like I was enjoying what I was seeing.  I went through all the motions as I thought I needed to, yet I kept having the feeling that I was choosing the best of the worst option.  Their pen design is better, so I must fit in there.  That recruiter gave me a ping pong ball with the company’s logo on it, they must have a fun work environment.  When trying to write my cover letters it was painful to find reasons I wanted to work at each firm.  In fact, what I found myself searching for on each of their websites was their charity work they in order to convey any genuine interest in my statement.

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After the Hurricane

As we watch the pictures of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction, I am reminded how little control we have over our lives at certain times. People are killed, including Penn alumna Jessie Streich-Kest, who was crushed when a tree came down while she was walking her dog. Others lost homes, had homes flooded, or are still without power. Here at Penn everything came to a halt. Classes (and on-campus interviews) were cancelled, travel was and is delayed.

Now all are trying to make sense of what happened, and what has been lost. The lesson is to remember that there are times when all of us, governed by appointments, electronic devices, by our very busy-ness, have to give way to forces beyond our control, and our understanding. Whether we are dealing with minor disruptions now or major losses, it’s good to reflect on how illusory control is in a world governed by chance occurrence or natural disaster. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan. Our work in Career Services is predicated on the importance of planning. But just as we must be ready to respond to serendipity, we must also accept the unexpected disaster, or roadblock, and to respond to that with grace and patience and gratitude for those who are doing their best to make things better. We don’t spend much time talking about “first responder” careers, but we are grateful to those who do this work, particularly this week when so many have needed help. We honor them, and we thank them.

Let’s Go Social

by Anubha Kapur (SEAS ’13)

The weekend begins on a lazy Saturday morning at 11 o’clock. With all the troubles of college life hanging over you, the heart flutters to have a no-agenda moment. Like the leaves of fall strewn over, and amid the gentle Philly drizzle, the weather plays the same ambivalent tune like the one strumming your life.

A cream cheese bagel, a cup of steaming Dunkin, the DP in one hand….and that’s the kick start to the day we all have…Stereotypical, yet real!

Amidst all the randomness of life, there is another crucial factor that links all of us together. Yes, checking out what’s new on our Facebook page, or skimming through the tweets of last night’s party… Social media: that little flicker that makes the clockwork of mundane life come alive!

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