Years of Passing Showers
Updated: Feb 3
Summer 2019 signaled the end of junior year and marked my first internship. As an adult student with limited experience in my programs of study, the opportunity given to me was unreal. Where else could I work for such an important cause held firmly by tenets I’ve come to know? Who else would have given me, an intern, the authority to practice, craft, and submit letters of intent? When would I start? How to begin?
I enrolled at Bucks County Community College in 2015 after an extended vacation working for my father. I became interested in higher education a year before enrolling. I chose to study French. Guided by resources digital and physical, I spent a few months grinding away at my own brand of Rosetta Stone. A pen pal was found to avoid plateauing. My stash of flash cards began to grow like my interest in my pen pal, her studies, hobbies, and opinions. Community college called.
They say that if you work a job you love you’ll never work a day in your life. I was too pragmatic, too cautious. Biotechnology required two years and seemingly guaranteed a well-paying job upon graduation. I worried about money and security. STEM wasn’t a natural fit, but I continued to convince myself that the money earned would satisfy any hobby I’d have on the side. What two weeks in a foreign land does to resolve.
It wasn’t jet lag that messed me up, made me hurt. My eyes weren’t on the Eiffel Tower, the Mona Lisa, or the gardens of Versailles. I came home and reconsidered everything. I felt I had spent too much time pretending. In response to my summer revelation I detached myself from harmful ideals, letting loose the safety blanket I felt insulated me from true growth and expression. Reading and writing had always interested me, so why sideline the hobbies? I called community college.
I changed my major to English. Some were skeptical, but I made this choice for me. I enjoyed my writing-focused, lit-based courses. Professors noticed my work and offered encouragement. I succeeded, earning high marks in my liberal-artsy area of study, what with the gen-ed requirements universities expect from transfer students. She would have been proud that I graduated summa cum laude, I know.
Penn State Abington was the next step, bringing me even closer to self-realization, self-love, and, later, The Reflect Organization. I established myself as a serious student among the language and literature professors my first semester, testing out of French 1 and writing fiction that would be published in the school’s literary magazine. I felt at home, in my element, without stress. I was doing what I loved.
Senior year can come with a sense of dread. Post-undergrad decisions one may feel they should have thought about and actively pursued can gnaw at you. Fortunately, I had resources available. It’s possible I may not have crossed paths with Reflect had I taken a specific class a different semester and altogether avoided Career Services' many workshops. I believe stars tend to align when you think positively, and I feel my newfound peace was conducive to venturing outside my introverted habitat and into the realm of social possibility.
Writing for Humanities and Career Services empowered me. In the Writing for Humanities course, I had to create a resume and search the web for a job that spoke to me. In addition, I attended campus events about resume writing, personality type, and resources offered at Penn State. Soon I would meet with Penn State’s Career Services to have my resume critiqued before sending it out to my selected job. Later, I would meet again with Career Services to develop my interviewing skills. Eventually I would speak to Kyra and Jared at Reflect.
What an entrance to life outside of school. I couldn’t have picked a better organization to grow with. Not only did I learn skills related to teamwork, research, and time management, but I learned about mental wellness, a topic not often spoken about or taught. Every day I took the train into Philly’s heart, and every day I would look out the window and reflect on the day’s events, those to come and those that had passed. Every day at Reflect began with life updates followed by the day’s agenda. Jared created an environment that was safe and open, which allowed us initially shaky interns to feel at-home, authentic, and motivated to do our best, because who wouldn’t do their best for family.
Senior year is nearly halfway over, and soon it will be time to take the next step. I continue to learn about literature and organizational communication, improving my writing ability along the way. This past summer, after the internship at Reflect was over, I was invited to apply for a mentor program on campus. My Reflect experience influenced my decision to apply, as Jared’s devotion to us—his ability to see our strengths and place us in positions that challenged us to grow further—kindled within me a yearning to follow suit, to create allyship with a shaky, incoming student and empower him to succeed.
I have looked back on my journey and achievements. It is a great honor to be a mentor. It is a great honor to come on as a Project Associate at Reflect. It is a great honor to receive the English Department’s Beverley Wright McHugh award. It’s been three years since France, and four years since beginning community college. I’ve put on many mental miles. I’ve since created a new type of safety blanket, one that doesn’t impede growth but rather reinforces and informs decision-making. I have wondered about France and have questioned my actions, both taken and contemplated. It wouldn’t hurt to reach out and check-in, as this is a world that spins with beautiful possibility.
Charles is a senior at Penn State Abington, where
he studies English, writing, and Corporate Communication. When not reading and writing for classes, he enjoys buying books at thrift stores and library sales. Charles hopes to write proposals and speeches for organizations.