This year was the first time I had ever heard of PLEN, and I can’t imagine what I would have missed out on if I hadn’t ever learned about it. One day at school, the Political Science department had sent out a series of emails about opportunities for the upcoming summer and one had jumped out at me: PLEN’s Women in Global Policy seminar. After reading through the email, I immediately went to the PLEN website and started learning as much as I could about the seminar, and I knew it was something I wanted and needed to be a part of. I was always having trouble with the idea of how I could be successful in my future because I didn’t know what I needed to get there and I knew this seminar would give me the tools to become confident and finally stop doubting myself.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got to the seminar the first day, but no matter what, I knew I couldn’t let my shyness take over. I told myself that if I truly wanted to get anything out of this amazing experience and make the most of it, I needed to ask questions and share ideas when I had them. Never in my life have I enjoyed just listening to a panel of people talk about their lives and experiences as much as I did at the seminar. I found that no matter what the topic was, I could find something that I could relate to myself and my future. I loved the panels because it was first hand advice and stories from successful women who are in the position that I hope to be in one day.
Of the entire seminar, the single greatest piece of advice I needed to hear was that there is no one concrete way to allow you to achieve your dreams. I love to have a plan, however I could never come up with a way to plan out my whole future without blank spots marring it. This was one of the main questions I would ask our speakers, but every time, the responses were the same: there is no one correct way. I learned that planning every step of the my future out exactly is pointless. The future is always changing, new opportunities are always presenting themselves, and there isn’t a master plan in the world with guidelines saying you must do this to achieve that. This realization took a lot of pressure off of myself because I was always comparing myself to what others were doing, and this seminar taught me that I could just let go of that stress that I’m not doing the right thing, because there isn’t a “right way”.
Overall, the seminar gave light to an array of many different career paths I had never considered or even knew existed. I got to listen and speak with individuals who work in all sectors, and learned that each is important. I got to go to the U.S State Department, the Embassy of Spain, and experience life in Washington DC for a week. Most importantly, the Women in Global Policy seminar did not only teach me about policy; the experience of the seminar taught me invaluable lessons I’ll never forget and gave me the confidence I was searching for to know that there is absolutely nothing that can get in my way except for myself.
Madelyn Gintner attended the 2017 Women in Global Policy seminar during her freshman year at St. Norbert College. She is majoring in International Studies, Political Science and French.