A student’s insights from a Spring Break trip to Washington DC
Over Spring Break, a group of juniors and seniors went to Washington D.C. for a Career Discovery Tour, the first Career Discovery Tour since the pandemic.
“The Career Discovery Tour is a donor-funded experience that began in 2013 under the leadership of the Alumni Board of Directors with support from then President Zach Messitte,” according to Director of Constituent Engagement Amy Gerretsen ‘04.
I was one of the students that had the opportunity to go on the trip, and here are some things that I learned from it:
Mistakes are OK as long as you learn from them.
One quite poignant experience for me was a young alumnus who talked about how he made some big mistakes at Ripon but learned from them and was able to graduate early and then live and work in D.C. I think we’ve all made mistakes, some bigger than others, and it’s easy to dwell on them or let them beat you down. Hearing someone speak humbly, firsthand about that experience made me realize that there’s no shame in past mistakes when they are used as a teachable moment for your future.
A lot of people don’t know exactly what they want to do – and even if they do, there are usually quite a few steps to get there.
A woman who worked in the federal government used a metaphor of a Plinko game to explain how she got to where she was – she bounced from job to job, experience to experience, instead of following a straight path. Many other alumni and speakers had the same experience; they learned along the way.
Even if they knew what they wanted to do, it took steps to get there, such as networking, education, and not-so-great jobs.
Don’t be afraid to network.
A big focus of this trip was networking with alumni. At first, I was a little bit shy and hesitant, even as a normally extroverted person, just because many of them had a higher “status” than me and were older. However, I quickly realized that Ripon College is the invisible thread that connects current students and alumni, and even just starting off with small talk about the current state of campus quickly turned into a great conversation.
Someone has definitely been in your situation before and can offer you advice.
Especially as a college student who experienced the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy to feel alone and like nobody understands your situation. However, talking to alumni, especially recent graduates, made me realize that many of my same fears and worries about college and the future were also experienced by many former college students, and they overcame them and are now able to give sage advice.
Plan for the worst-case scenario and take it in stride.
We thankfully didn’t have any major mishaps, especially compared to other trips I’ve been on with family or friends where everything seemed to go wrong. But, throughout the entire trip, it helped that the group was able to adapt to the experiences that come with traveling to a big city, especially a city with such high security. Plus, personally, bringing “just in case” things like an umbrella and an extra phone charger ended up being really helpful.
Someone else’s success is not your failure.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in competitiveness in college and to feel jealous of your peers. However, meeting all these different people who came from the same college and ended up all being successful and achieving their goals, while all being in different careers, made me realize that I can follow my own dreams without having to compare myself to anyone else.
This was a trip that I applied for on a whim when I saw it advertised on the Ripon College Instagram page, and I couldn’t be more glad that I did. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this trip, but it ended up being one of the best opportunities I’ve taken while in college.