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Update: I Have Figured My Whole Life Out

So the title might be an exaggeration because who really has got their whole life figured out? Especially in college. However, I did figure out what I would like to do out of college. Before I reveal what it is, let me break down how I decided it.

On Saturday I woke up at five in the morning to meet my journalism teacher and six other journalism students in the parking lot of the school at six. We were all going to Portland for the third annual SPJ (Society for Professional Journalists) conference, which started at 8am. The conferences title was “Build a Better Journalist” and featured panels from eight to five on different aspects of journalism. I knew I had to come when I heard that one of the panels was about environmental journalism, which is something I have considered for a while to be a career direction.

When we got there and it came time for the environmental panel, it only strengthened my interest in that field of work. It is extremely important for me to educate the public in order for them to make an informed decision.

But this isn’t the end of the story. After the panel came the keynote speaker Michelle Nijhuis, an environmental and scientific journalist who has written for top journals like National Geographic. Bottom line, she’s really cool. When it came time to ask questions, a woman towards the front left stood up and introduced herself as a scientific and environmental freelance journalist. Freelance? I had heard of freelance journalists but I hadn’t even considered it as a possibility. As soon as the panel was over, I went over to talk with the lady.

It turns out, there were four women who were all scientific and environmental freelance journalists from Washington. They were all wearing stylish dresses and had an air of importance around them. I didn’t know them and I was already fan-girly a little bit.

I introduced myself and asked what kind of things they did for a living and what their background was. They all wrote for publications such as Nature and Science magazine. They all had a science background and one of them had a PhD in Geology. They made freelancing sound possible and exciting.

Luckily for me, there was a freelancing panel next. I needed to know more. In the panel, I learned about money management, self-marketing and maintaining connections and a schedule. I was introduced to the organization National Association of Science Writers (NASW), which I have already created an account with, and I collected so many business cards.

So what do I want to do with my life? I want to be either a marine biologist or an environmental scientist and a scientific and environmental journalist. Naturally, I am going to try to do both. I think I will also try to take off a few years in between undergrad and grad school to get my feet wet in the working world. That way, I can decide what I want to get my PhD in.

It feels amazing to know generally what I want to do. This is the first time that I have a tangible goal. Before, I had no idea where I might look for a job, but now I know I want to apply to organizations like NOAA and publications like Science.

All of that and I think I might be able to graduate in four and a quarter years instead of the original five.

Yes, it was a very successful weekend.

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