Confessions of a Recent Graduate: What Am I Going to Do with My Life?

The college years are supposed to be the time when you figure out who you are and who you want to be—or at least that’s what I thought when I was 18 years old and headed to my first class at NYU in a blouse-pants combo that tried and failed to come off as business casual. I knew I wanted to apply to NYU’s International Relations Honors Program and that I would double major in Spanish. (At the time, to graduate with an International Relations degree at NYU you had to be admitted in the honors program. Current undergraduates can choose to do the major with or without the honors component). I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with these degrees. I knew I was interested in expanding my horizons in the literal sense; I wanted to learn about the political and cultural complexities of places I had only read about growing up in a conservative Nebraskan town. I also knew I wanted to help people, which I admit is a vague goal, but I felt an almost tangible empathy for the people I met and the people I read about that I couldn’t ignore.

Graduating in my backyard!

I was sure that answers, or at least some sort of clarity, would come to me. I certainly didn’t expect to feel even more unsure of what I wanted to do with my life when receiving my diploma than when I was walking to my first class. I was about to graduate, yet I was reading articles and taking personality tests trying to figure out what type of career might spark my youthful spirit (or at least not smother that spirit under a pillow) and earn me enough money to live in an apartment that’s up to code. After three years of internships, I was still no closer to deciding my career path than when I fumbled to my first interview in ill-fitting heels.

However, I’ve realized that I don’t need to find or choose a career path. I’m already on a career path; it’s right there on my resume. I have years of workplace stories to share from at least three different industries. My eclectic ventures, swinging from job to job, have shown me sides of the world that I wouldn’t have encountered at a small college where the only available jobs are at the library or student center. 

Through this series of articles, I will attempt to connect the dots between my odd jobs, from New York City to Spain, and from public relations to public defense. At first, I wanted to shape foreign policy at the State Department. Then I wanted to fight for justice and work to end mass incarceration as a top-shot attorney. Through these experiences, however, I often felt a creative urge when I least expected it. There was a love for film and literature that I couldn’t satiate no matter how much I consumed. I still want to advance a global mindset, like a UN Ambassador, and contribute to the fight for justice, like an ACLU attorney, but I want to do it through the art of storytelling. 

I resisted this conclusion for a long time, as I was tempted by the increased stability of a more straightforward career path. Through plenty of practice (and years of mental health care), I have learned to accept and even embrace uncertainty. I am constantly discovering what I am interested in, what I am skilled at, and who I want to be. I believe that going to college in New York City is one of the best ways to open yourself to the array of possibilities that is your career and your life. I will share how I navigated the competitive internship market, the setbacks of rejection, and the brilliance of finding something you love to do. I hope to convey that it is more than acceptable to feel uncertain about your future during college. In fact, that uncertainty might propel you somewhere better than you ever expected.

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By Marisa Bianco

Marisa graduated from NYU in May 2020, summa cum laude, with degrees in International Relations and Spanish. She grew up in Nebraska, but she is currently living in Córdoba, Spain, where she works as an English teacher. You can find her eating tapas in the Spanish sun while likely stressing about finding her life’s purpose.

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