PLEN, the Seminar that Guided Me Out of My Tunnel.

I joined my school’s senate this past year out of curiosity for public policy and I fell in love with something I thought I hated. Thankfully, my roommate realized how much I enjoyed talking about issues at our school. She told me about her experience at PLEN along with all the resources that allowed her to go to the seminar. I was hesitant because I always thought I was going into medicine, but I could not pass up an opportunity to learn about policy, network with amazing women, and visit our nation’s capital. I have seen the injustices in our healthcare system. As a doctor, I would never be at peace knowing that there are a lot of people without medical help because of their lack of money. I knew that this particular seminar was not related to health care policy, but I had to get my foot in the door and learn about any kind of policy to explore this diverse career field. At the end of the day, the reason I chose medicine was to help people, and this seminar allowed me to see that there is an abundance of ways that you can help people globally. 

I never considered policy to be in my future career, so I had no expectations of this seminar. I was blown away. It was as if I had been a tunnel my whole life and suddenly someone showed me the way out and I got to see the world. I grew up learning of careers that were pretty clear cut: teacher, doctor, lawyer, etc. The women who spoke at the Women in Global Policy seminar showed me a world I had no clue existed. Although it frightened me, this fear has led me on a hunt to find my passions and try to go towards a career that involves my passions. I had no clue the work and dedication it takes to be in the political world. I used to always think the main opportunities available  were in offices or knocking on doors. However, the world of politics has all kinds of jobs filled with people doing amazing things. 

Cindy and other PLEN students at the Women in Global Policy Seminar

The notes I took at this seminar feel more useful than the ones I took in my chemistry classes. I learned a lot at PLEN and one of the most important things I have shared with others who will never have the opportunity to attend this conference is that networking is key. Regardless of the field you are going into, the job you have should be done to the best of your ability because you never know where those people will end up. I also learned that as a woman of color, I will face injustice, but that should never hinder me and it will not thanks to all the advice from the women at the seminar. At first it was discouraging to hear all the women of color speakers share their experiences with injustice, but they would laugh it off. I asked myself why these women were not angry until I realized that these experiences have shaped them into the strong, resilient women that stood before me. They gave me strength to be okay with the inevitable prejudices that I will face because it will make me strong and resilient. 

PLEN students on a site visit to Save the Children

This seminar affected me in ways that I could never imagine. I have been planning on going to medical school since I was in high school. However, this seminar allowed me to see that I can make an impact without medicine. Throughout the week, I sought advice from every health professional that crossed my path, but I did not feel reaffirmed in their words of advice.  Deep down I knew that I was on the incorrect path and I can now officially say that I do not know what I want to do after college. While it is terrifying to think that my resume only has medical related things and that is not the field I am considering anymore, PLEN reassured me that I will find my calling. My plans were set ten years in advance and now I am focused on a couple months which has given me some peace of mind. I am grateful that my roommate overheard the passion in my rants about our school issues and what I had planned to try to fix them. However, now I need to learn to listen to myself and hear the happiness in my own voice when I speak about something I care about. I am still not sure whether the world of politics is for me, but I know now that there is a place for me there.

Cindy Umaña is a senior at the College of Saint Benedict where she is majoring in Sociology and is involved in her school senate.  She attended the Women in Global Policy seminar in 2019.

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