By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest. – Confucius
Whether it be through journaling, honest conversations with friends, family, or mentors, or even meditation, mindful reflection helps me clarify my path in life. As we say goodbye to 2015 and ring in 2016, I wanted to pause a moment to highlight my defining experiences of the year. In order to keep this concise, I have focused on three: studying abroad at King’s College London, working in Investment Banking in New York, and refining my professional objectives in the first semester of my final year at college.
On January 1st I arrived in the United Kingdom for my five-month stint studying at King’s College London. From the moment I arrived the two words that came to mind were thrilling and natural. It felt thrilling, yet natural to live in a foreign city with unfamiliar customs, personalities, and lifestyles. It felt thrilling, yet natural to take classes in a school taught and enrolled with a global cohort of academics. It felt thrilling, yet natural to travel on the weekends and discover new cities across Europe via countless hostels and AirBnBs.
I am immensely grateful that I was afforded the opportunity to have this experience – one that I know many young adults my age would not be able to have. I use the word “natural” to articulate the balance I had of overwhelming excitement and energy tempered by my eagerness to embrace change. It is this combination that made me feel consistently in control and in my element abroad. It was this mindset of being entirely comfortable yet consistently challenged with new experiences and ways thinking that made my term in London so impressionable. I look forward to having the opportunity to travel again or even to spend a few years working abroad and continuing such explorations.
Summer Analyst in Investment Banking
On June 1st I began a ten-week long Summer Analyst position at Stifel Nicolaus in New York City. My two-word summary of the experience would be “immense learning.” With no formal accounting education, I had much to learn to pick up the basics of Investment Banking. From the TrainingTheStreet boot-camp we had our first week to the day-to-day training on the job, there were few moments of rest. High output expectations, unpredictable work flows, and ever-looming deadlines created a high pressure and high intensity environment that was unlike anything I had experienced before.
As I look back on the immense learning and growth that took place over the next ten weeks, I am beyond grateful that I had such an opportunity. Working on Wall Street taught me a valuable set of analytical and applied frameworks I will use in my next professional endeavor. While I was frustrated by rigid process and narrow set of expectations inherent in the work, I am able to appreciate how rewarding the experience truly was upon reflection. Looking back, one of the most defining takeaways was in how it helped me narrow my interests and clarify my strengths to develop a more directed approach to life after college.
— Weekend at Smorgasburg Food Fair in Brooklyn —
Refining My Professional Objectives
With experience in foreign policy analysis, sales and product work at an ecommerce startup, academic research in International Development, and now Investment Banking, I came into my senior year at USC with exposure to many different professional fields. Each experience was a distinct puzzle piece of my professional world; but, at the beginning of the semester I struggled to understand how all of the pieces fit together. Over the course of the semester I reflected further upon my past experiences and conducted numerous informational interviews with minds in various fields. This process helped me start answering the who, what, where questions regarding life after college. Who could I work for? What position do I want within a given company? Where do I want to live? While honing in on “answers” to those questions is one endeavor and securing a real job is quite another, I’m grateful I’ve had the opportunity to set my bearings as the New Year begins.
I enjoy taking time to reflect upon significant moments in my life. Although, in looking back I recognize it’s deceptively easy to think that I fully understand the forces that are pushing and pulling me through my life. As a parting thought to 2015, let me say that for each moment I choose to acknowledge, many more pass unnoticed. And for each year that seems unparalleled in its reflective significance, yet another begins to sweep me away, all over again.
I wish everyone the best in 2016!