Going For It

I have been thinking about the future a lot lately. When I say future, I’m not talking about it in general terms as a sustainability major should. Instead, I’m rather selfishly thinking of my own future and what it holds for me. More specifically, I’m thinking about grad school and the rest of my undergraduate semesters. I’m thinking about careers, jobs I would love, work that I would love to get up in the morning for. It’s quite a lot to focus on at 21 years old, isn’t it? (Though at my age, my mom had just married my dad and was pregnant with me – a bit more thought consuming than a career, but I digress.)

But a few weeks ago, something a little more immediate and relevant came up in one of my classes, and it reminded me of a dream I’ve had for a long time.

It started with brochures. Lots of brochures.

“The School of Sustainability study abroad department is looking for more students to join these programs,” my professor told us all at the beginning of our lecture. She was passing around the handouts as she spoke. “They have lots of funding available for financial assistance they literally need to get rid of, so I encourage all of you to apply.”

I looked at my brochure. There were four summer programs available: Sustainability, Tourism, and Culture in Dubai, Energy, Sustainability, and Development in Spain and Morocco, Diversity and Sustainability in Ecuador, and Comparing Sustainability across Cultures and Governments in Washington D.C. and London.

I actually felt my heart leap upwards. Such intense longing I’ve only felt once before: when I was sixteen and staring at a letter that invited me to attend a National Youth Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. for ten days during that summer. I was able to go to D.C. five years ago and I left a piece of my heart there. I did not want to leave. If I hadn’t had a plane ticket back home I’d probably still be there.

But London, too? To be able to go to my favorite place in the world and visit a place I’ve always dreamed of going to all over the course of a few weeks? And study something that blended perfectly with my track area (Policy and Governance in Sustainable Systems) and my minor (Political Science) at the same time? It was almost too good to be true. It was as though the academic gods got together, looked at my ASU profile, and said, “Okay, guys, what kind of program can we put together that Alexis Roeckner would be the most qualified for and go absolutely freaking nuts over?”

Me in front of National Archives in 2008
Me in front of National Archives in 2008

I emailed one of the program managers and asked for more details about applying for the apparently available financial aid. She emailed me back and told me she checked my eligibility and that if I wanted to participate in the program, it was done. She also recommended I meet with the faculty director of the program, and so I happily scheduled a meeting with him for a few days later. We talked for half an hour, during which my longing to participate in the program skyrocketed. When I said, jokingly, that I was slightly disappointed that a trip to London would not include a day trip in Paris, he laughed and said, “It’s one of things where it’s like… you’re down there already, you might as well go. I have a feeling we’ll be headed down there for a bit while we’re in the U.K.”

Cue leaping, bounding heart that strained to get out of my body and leap and jump and dance and go absolutely, completely insane.

I have lots of dreams, but one of my biggest ones is to visit the Louvre in Paris. Even the idea of me finally being able to visit that museum makes tears come to my eyes. Washington D.C. plus London plus Paris too?

And so I spent the remainder of our meeting trying not to look like a completely desperate, emotional, and crazy undergrad student and instead asked questions about the details of the program and the planning that had gone into it. Then I made sure the information I had about applying for financial aid was correct, the faculty director wished me luck, and I went on my merry way.

I would be financing the entire trip myself, so task number one is to apply for the financial aid they’re giving away to qualified students. I know I’m already eligible for the program. What remains to be seen is if I’m eligible for the financial aid. If I am, I can afford to go, granted I save enough for my airfare and food for two weeks. The program takes place at the end of June, so I would have enough time to work and save money.

I think life is too short to not take this chance. When am I ever going to be able to do something like this again? Who knows where I’ll be after I graduate? Who knows what opportunities I might have, what I might be doing? I think it’s time to go for it. Time to cast aside all worry and doubt. Time to take chances and risks.

I want this. I want this more than anything.

And so, from now until summertime, I am going to do everything in my power to try to make this happen.

Applying for financial aid consists of writing two essays, one detailing why we are interested in our program of choice and how it will help us to achieve our academic and professional goals, and the other specifying personal information about our circumstances the committee should consider. Below is the end of my first essay:

I have been entertaining the idea of going to graduate school in Washington D.C. once I have received my diploma from the School of Sustainability. The nation’s capital is home to American University and its School of International Service, and I am interested in AU’s master’s program in Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs. I believe that participating in this particular study abroad program will solidify my decision to do this. But who knows? Maybe this study abroad program will open up another idea or an opportunity of some sort. I take all the risks and chances in the world to find what it is I was meant to do, and I believe this program just might be one of those callings.

I sincerely hope this is true. I hope that this is my calling and that I get to heed it.

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