By Cristina Ionita
It has been three years since I started my journey at ARU, and I can already feel the end approaching. It makes me both sad and nervous to think about my future as a graduate, and I know that I’m not the only one floating this boat.
It’s difficult for me to picture myself outside of my studies, outside of the classrooms and the library in which I spent countless hours. Even though I have had several part-time jobs since high school, becoming a full-time employee feels simply odd. I’ve spent the last seven years of my life studying tourism and dreaming about travelling. I thought that by now, I would think about what to pack when I move to Washington. You see, for four years, I pictured myself getting an internship at National Geographic at their headquarters in D.C. I worked hard to improve my writing skills and tried my best to immerse myself in travelling experiences. I don’t even want to think about how much money I spent buying travel magazines and how many hours of sleep I lost over travelling videos on Youtube. However, my dream came to an end when I found out that they don’t accept European applications. I felt crushed, betrayed and lost. What was I supposed to do now? I had no plan B (silly, I know.). For three months, I felt I had no purpose, no direction. I was horrified to think about my future.
Then I picked myself up. After a meeting with the Employability Bureau and revising my skills, I decided to start a career in Events Management. I persuaded my boss to let me organise an event we planned for the winter (2020), and I was excited to embrace the hectic and thrilling life of an event planner. Then the pandemic started, so no more events. I was lost once again. I kept wondering – ‘Why me?’. Why was it that every time I thought that I had things figured out, something came and took it all away?
One afternoon, before the world started spinning due to the pandemic, I met a wonderful businessman – Professor Alan Barrel – at a society event. During the event, we talked about wealth, thriving economies and helping developing countries. He shared his ambitious work in Latvia, Bulgaria and Brazil, and discussed how he helps them to grow entrepreneurial mindsets as well as their skills. Without thinking, I asked him if he believed whether this could happen in my country – Romania. I will forever remember his reply – ‘Let’s meet for a coffee and see what we can do’. Two weeks later, I met him at the Costa Coffee on campus, and we started speaking about what we could do to organise an entrepreneurship venture camp in Romania. Despite our progress, we had to pause our work as the pandemic hit Romania quite hard.
No venture camp. No events. At that point, I only had my studies and my part-time job as a barista. The future seemed quite dull.
But in September 2020, the Money Festival gained traction. The Money Festival is a project dedicated to bringing financial literacy to students while empowering them to make sustainable choices. You can find out more about it here. Organising it as an online event brought me new experience and the chance to learn new skills. Two weeks ago, Professor Alan Barrel offered me an internship position at one of his companies to help him organise online lectures and workshops for universities and businesses about business innovation. My knowledge about business innovation is limited, as I have spent my academic years studying tourism. However, I have transferable skills that I can use, some experience as an event planner and a strong desire to learn.
Why am I telling you this long story that looks like a maze? To show you that despite things not turning out the way that you planned them to, there is space for hope. I used to get upset so much over the things that didn’t go the way I wanted them to that I didn’t see unintended opportunities which were right in front of me.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to be employable. You might not even desire to become an employee, but to start your own business. No matter what you choose, look for what you’re good at, what sets your soul on fire. I promise you will find your purpose, your people. If you don’t know where to start on this self-discovery journey, talk to your friends. Have a deep chat with your friends about what they think is special about you. What topics make your eyes shine? Where do they see you in 3 years?
If there is one thing that I have learned on this journey, it is that sometimes you need to let go of what you want because the universe knows what your heart needs.