Sometimes we can be surrounded by people and still feel completely alone. Alone in our opinions, our experiences, our thoughts and our mindsets, the changes we seek, the unfairness we face, and the low self-esteem we feel.
People prefer not to speak up, act out or share what they’re going through. They are plagued by the misunderstanding that their lives are unique to them and no one will be able to relate, agree or understand. But in actuality, we’re more alike than you’d ever expect.
I want to share my story with you. It’s the four-year story of an underrepresented arts and sciences student at Lehigh that I hope won’t fall on deaf ears or blind eyes. Because I wish I’d been warned — or at the very least prepared — before making many of the choices I did from the moment I stepped foot on campus, I’m asking you to take my Lehigh story to heart and realize you’re not alone.
I was accepted to Lehigh as a business and engineering student in the IBE honors program. Beneficial experience, impressive professors, one-of-a-kind opportunities. But, after spending my freshman year taking the same courses I’d previously taken in high school, I learned all over again that they didn’t interest or engage me like I knew other classes and subjects could, and I decided the business and engineering path wasn’t for me.
When I left IBE, I chose to spend the rest of my life doing something I love rather than being paid enough to think I’m happy.
I’d always been passionate about expressing myself through words and telling stories, so, sophomore year, I enrolled in a journalism class.
The course turned into writing for The Brown and White, which turned into taking more journalism classes, which turned into declaring journalism as my major.
Junior year came and went. I was now in the College of Arts and Sciences, almost completely sectioned off from the majority of the university, the engineering and business colleges and their students. But, it was impossible to avoid hearing who got an internship with a Big Four accounting firm, how much more money they would already be making than I probably ever would with a journalism degree and how they’d get to live every graduate’s dream by moving to New York City.
Now, as a senior, I can tell you that time flies faster than you think it will. It also comes with decisions that challenge you and alter the direction your life is moving in.
If I choose this school, will I receive the same guidance and support that students with more popular majors are receiving?
If I declare this major, will I be happy doing something similar for the rest of my life?
If I get involved in this extracurricular, will it be one piece of a puzzle that employers want to see on my résumé?
I was so used to having my life planned out education-wise. After elementary school, there was middle school. After middle school, there was high school. After high school, there was college. But college is the last stop on my educational journey. Now, what?
While my future is still uncertain, one thing is guaranteed. That’s the talk about the overwhelming number of students who, before the spring semester even started, had accepted jobs paying more in one year than a journalism student might make in two. I had almost started to accept that I had failed if I didn’t find a job before graduating. But instead, I realized there is a problem with the process.
In the journalism field, if you don’t know people in the industry, network often or have connections, you’re already at a disadvantage. It’s becoming more about who you know than what you’re qualified for. Because so many people are working hard and doing and achieving so many notable things, it’s not enough to expect your hard work to pay off anymore.
Then there’s the unrealistic expectation that recent college graduates will already have had more years of experience in the field than they’ve spent as students in college to even be considered for an entry-level job.
Without many connections or experience, I applied to almost 100 internships and jobs. I heard back from a handful of companies in the form of generic rejection emails. I received one interview request.
To say the process has taken an intense emotional and mental toll is an understatement. It’s a blow to your confidence and your self-esteem. It’s discouraging, and it makes you feel like you’re either not good enough or you’re doing something wrong. Maybe both.
I was naïve enough to think that just by attending Lehigh, I would automatically land a job after graduation.
What else was I supposed to think when this is the platform the university preaches on? Maybe this concept holds true for engineering and business students. But, for an arts and sciences major, you have to work harder than you did in any course just to stand out and be acknowledged by one employer.
By no means did I think finding a job would be easy, but to some degree, I was blindsided because I wasn’t prepared for the toll it would take.
For those of you who are going through a similar experience, I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone, and you are good enough.
Catherine Manthorp, ’18, is the sports editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]