You know what’s awkward about being a junior?
Let me paint you a picture. You’re finally on winter break, basking in the glow of the coming two weeks, aflutter with the promise of food and family and presents and irritating Christmas music. After last semester’s horrifying finals schedule, you’ve gained a new appreciation for the simpler, sweeter things in life. You are prepared to finally do what you couldn’t for the past four months: nothing.
And then it happens. You’re at a Christmas party, going in for that third Santa cookie, when a relative you haven’t seen since the Fourth of July pops the question:
“So what’s the plan after you graduate?”
This is not an unfamiliar question. It’s been haunting you since you crossed the stage at high school graduation. But if you’re anything like me, with no laid-out, pre-professional track to call your own, thinking about a future outside the hallowed halls of Gilman is enough to squash your appetite. When you’re a freshman, you can answer this question in a dozen ways, staying vague while chatting about your favorite classes or the new minor you just declared. But junior year is no joke. Having too many plans is basically a euphemism for having no plan, and everyone knows it.
For me, junior year brought the terrifying-exciting revelation that going to grad school right out of undergrad is probably not in the cards. While premed students cramming for the MCAT may be jealous of my exam-free intersession, I was panicking. Up until now, there was always higher education standing in the way of me actually figuring out what I want to do with my life. Graduation is coming, and I’m hardly prepared for the decision-making and job-hunting that lead up to it.
Thankfully, the universe sent me a gift in the form of an unassuming two-week intersession class, “Media and PR in the Big Apple.” The first five days featured a Baltimore speaker series, during which a whole slew of incredible company reps spoke to us about the business of marketing. We heard from ad agencies, publications as renowned as Baltimore Magazine, and several of the quirky startups that are taking Charm City by storm. My LinkedIn connections doubled, and I’m still sorting through business cards.
The second week of class was spent in New York City, the epicenter of advertising and PR. I was star-struck as I found myself touring some of the biggest names in the industry. We heard from creative strategists at ESPN, media planners at AMC, and social media gurus at Ogilvy. I played with Legos in one of Google’s many micro-kitchens and posed with Elmo at Sesame Street Workshop. And all the while, I was gaining deeper and deeper access into a world I could actually see myself being a part of.
The class was equal parts practical and exciting, and that’s exactly what I want my professional life to be. In a practical sense, it opened local internship doors, which had me crying tears of relief. No matter what I end up doing this summer, I’ll at least know I applied to anything and everything in the tri-state area. But from a less defined perspective, it also gave me newfound peace of mind. I don’t know exactly what my future holds, but I know I’m headed in the right direction. For every high-flying exec who entered his or her field right out of college, there were five who had to really work to find their way. And if Hopkins has taught me anything, it’s to never fear hard work.