After a Reflective Summer, New Academic Challenges are Accepted

This summer ended up being one of the most productive summers I have had in years (actually they have all been productive in some way for the past few years). Fall is looming and I am expected to return to campus early next week. But focusing on the summer of 2017, I have to say that there were a myriad of things happening: thoughts that went through my head, decisions I have made, and plans I have changed.

I started interning for a small multicultural publishing company, called Lee & Low Books. They were incredible people, open to teach me an array of features within the marketing and publicity department. Their books are quite diverse about the Latinx experience, the African-American experience, South Asian, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, LGBT, history on issues that we may not know today, like the internment of Japanese Americans or the writer José Martí’s quest to free slaves in Cuba. The list goes on and on. Every time I would go to the back of the office, where they kept copies of all their books, I would find a new issue being tackled by one of their books. I was majorly surprised when it was a children’s picture book, those were my favorite.

As time progressed, every summer, I try to have a list of books to read and this year I included mostly fiction, which is very usual of me. Yet one day, early in the summer, I was reading Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar, or at least trying to, pure Latin American avant-garde literature. But the book is a little difficult to follow because it is divided into a bunch of chapters that are somehow disarrayed. Meaning that there is no chronological order and it is 155 chapters. It is an anti-novel, that’s how it is described. As I was trying to read that juggernaut, I just questioned myself its purpose. Why am I trying to read this? How can literature change the world? How can I impact the world reading a non-chronological book? What is it that is going to teach me? How to write the perfect anti-novel?

A part of me wants to write, but if I were to go work in publishing, I would be working on someone else’s writing; not my writing. I cannot betray myself that way, I thought. Besides, not to undermine the publishing industry, but there are enough books out there (129 million to be exact). I do not think there will be a shortage of books in a while. So all that added up to my questioning. I told somebody that I had four career choices at the beginning of the summer, and I was able to narrow that list to two by the end of it. I had (not in a particular order): literature professor, editor, journalist, human rights lawyer. Well, it is now between journalist and lawyer. What I am thinking is that I could even go to law school and become a reporter, mostly in politics, I would have certain knowledge that I can apply in journalism, no?

With me working at a publishing company, seeing how tedious it can be to sift through manuscripts and my existential-crisis like questions of why is fictional literature important to the world. I also started to question what I was studying, I realized that I had applied to go to study abroad in Barcelona, Spain to study Cervantes’ Don Quijote. That was the main objective, to read and glean from the text as I lived the Spaniard life. But I wasn’t interested in solely focusing on literature any longer. I called my study abroad office and asked them if a change was out of the question or if there was the most remote possibility. They said it was unusual and the application process had long passed, around early March, but they green-light my decision and gave me a nudge to do it.

I was now interested in going to The Hague, in The Netherlands, a program that focuses on international law while living in the city where the International Court of Justice is located. Indeed, I went from literature to law, but it is a very common step—many lawyers have studied English or any kind of literature during their undergrad career and then go into law school. It just so happens that I do not just want to study one subject during my undergrad years. I am ready for other types of academic challenges.

There were some drawbacks in this sudden change, however. I had to pack my fall semester with five courses, I have to fulfill my science requirement and I have to take intro to law as a prerequisite for The Hague program along with other major requirements. At this point, being a junior, is when academics are the major burden, but a major priority as well (well, they are always a priority, do not get me wrong). The main advice I have for myself this third year, maybe it will work for you too, is that I will start to do less in other matters. I am not expecting to invest as much time in clubs or any other commitment(s). I am going to dedicate as much time to my academics and my two jobs and perhaps occasionally write for the newspaper, but that will be it. I hope.

The fall semester also means the time to apply for prestigious internships in newspapers, whether I’ll get them or not, I have no idea, but that is definitely in the list too. So I will keep myself busy, nonetheless. I am just glad that this summer I had the chance to reflect, realize that publishing is not what I am made for. Glad that I am sticking to just one thing and that there is enough freedom for me to explore and no need to hold on to a decision for the rest of my life. This is the right time to do that. I look forward to these two years of more exploration to come.

Best luck on this new semester.

Santiago