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by students, art, design and incredible history. Could I ask for more? I have been fully sub- merged in transition and growth as I have left the life of a college student behind me. As NDSU Downtown has blossomed into a lively, vibrant creative learning center, I have watched and learned and grown with it.

Each day I see it in the lobby, welcoming visitors to NDSU Downtown: a battered, weathered brick wall partially covered with layer upon layer of old wallpaper. Jagged edges of sand-colored clay peek through from behind a frame of yellowed paisley, green floral prints and bright red-and-white plaid. How many years did it take to create this unique collage? It has a beauty only time can create.

In the same way, it takes time to find our niche and become the successful individu- als we are meant to be. I think of the friend who graduated with big dreams of going to Washington, D.C., and making a name for him- self. He spent a summer there as a political intern, rubbing shoulders with powerful lawmakers like Hillary Clinton and Colin Powell regularly. Months later when his internship was over, he found himself back in North Dakota doing paperwork for a lobbyist. This wasn’t quite the success he had dreamed of. But after paying dues for a year, he is looking forward to start- ing a job with U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.).

Another friend had a full-time job in manage- ment information systems waiting for her before she had even graduated. She spent four months building and updating databases and soon found it horribly monotonous and boring. She knew she couldn’t spend the rest of her life in front of a computer. One year after graduating, she is back in school to become a nurse.

Like these friends, I find myself in that strange space between college life and profes- sionalism, unsure where my career will take me. I am no longer tied to term papers and all- night cram sessions, but I lack the experience I need to feel like a true professional.

I still occasionally catch myself aching to skip class when my alarm clock ruthlessly wakes me for work. I haven’t had the heart to delete from my computer that project I poured sweat, blood and tears into for an entire semester. I miss rolling out of bed and into my favorite jeans – the well-worn ones that have become permanently shaped to fit me perfectly. And yet it is extremely satisfying to fight the fatigue, put on grown-up clothes, step out the door and put the skills I’ve learned to work doing something I love. I feel myself moving forward, putting aside my college-student tendencies and work- ing toward my career dreams.

“I am no longer tied to term papers and all-night cram sessions, but I lack the experience I need to feel like a true professional.”

In the course of working toward those dreams, I have gathered valuable skills that could never be taught in a classroom. We learned in class how to handle emergency situa- tions, but those lessons weren’t real until I had water dripping on my desk from a pipe three floors above me. I was taught to speak in front of groups, but until I gave a tour of NDSU Downtown to thirty-five junior high school students, I didn’t quite have the confidence to do it. Freshman math was all about problem solving, but until a department chair offered the building to two different organizations for meetings that happened to be on the same weekend – and told me to “make it work,” – I hadn’t lived it.

I have a long way to go to reach my full potential. In the ways of the working world, I know so little. Every day, though, I learn more about what the real world is all about. I meet new people and make new connections. One step at a time, one day at a time I am shaping my future.

  • Becca Stich

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