College is a weird phase in life where students are supposed to experiment and figure out what they want to do with their lives, while simultaneously having their future planned from tomorrow until their wedding day in ten years. Personally, I live in a strange limbo of knowing what field I want to enter, but having no idea what specific job and path I want to pursue. For five days with PLEN, I got to experiment, and really experience and learn what life and careers in Washington, DC are at their best and at their worst. Each panel I attended was interesting, eye opening, and life changing.
During my experience at the PLEN Women in Congress seminar, I learned to be confident in myself, and by the end I felt unstoppable. PLEN empowered me to embrace the ambiguity of what lies ahead. I wish I could say the seminar was my “aha!” moment where I knew exactly what I wanted to do and where I needed to be, but everything I learned about sounded so new and interesting. I always thought I had to pick a career path and stick with it, but after hearing how all these accomplished women jumped between the private and public sectors and various positions in all sorts of different places, I finally internalized that careers are not linear paths. Instead, they are windy trails that disappear into the woods and reappear on the other side, stronger, and easier to see than before.
With my newly found skills, and ever-expanding network of support, I am empowered to ask for what I want, without fearing the answer “no.” I am not scared to fail or lose. I know why I should run; I know I can run. I have a better idea of what it’s like to live on the campaign trail, or lobby congress, or be an elected official, or a staffer, or any of the other careers we heard about. Because of PLEN, I got to meet with a staffer for my Representative in congress and attend an event where I sat four rows behind the president of Costa Rica. Because of PLEN, I got to do it all.
A lot can happen in a five day PLEN seminar, and the effects are immediate. I don’t know exactly what I want to do with my life. I don’t know where I will start. But I do know that because of the seminar, I have the skills to take step one whether or not I think I’m ready, and even before I know what that step is. Now, I have a new network of empowered women ready to support me, just as I am ready to support them. Every woman should attend a PLEN seminar, because empowered women empower women.
Sivan Nizan is a student at Chatham University, graduating in December 2018. She is majoring in Sustainability and Policy Studies and minoring in Economics. She attended the PLEN Women and Congress seminar in March 2017.