A PLEN Experience to Remember

When I started my master’s program in global policy at Northwestern University, I knew I wanted to supplement my course learning. Little did I know that an unforgettable experience would come out of a quick Google search. In my undergraduate career, I was a bit directionless. I changed my major about four times, and ended my schooling thinking that I would pursue a law degree. I knew that for my masters, I wanted to be sure of where I was going. To find an experience like the PLEN Women in Global Policy Seminar, I felt truly grateful and knew I could feel more secure in my future studies.

On the first day I received my favorite piece of advice, “Never be the one to take yourself out of the running.” I do this so often. As a master’s student, I am on the hunt for jobs that align with global policy. I cannot count the amount of times I have not applied for an opening because I do not fit their specifications exactly. Or, even if I do, I question my ability to succeed in the position, thinking, there must be someone else who can do it better. 

Rachel and other students at the PLEN 40th anniversary celebration.

In my daily life, I struggle with confidence. I can’t imagine how much more I would be struggling if I hadn’t attended Women in Global Policy seminar. This seminar pushed me out of my comfort zone, onto the thin ice that is my self-confidence, and said, go for it. Surrounded by women comfortable in their knowledge and expertise, I realized that I could do the same. 

As a first generation college graduate in a master’s program, I am forced to forge my own way in my studies and career. I find it difficult to jump in without fear of drowning. Taking vigorous notes from each panelist, I learned that there is no one way to succeed. The panelists and speakers each day all had different beginnings and paths, but were happy with where they landed. Plus, they realized that where they are now is not necessarily permanent, and had goals and dreams that continued over the next 5, 10, 20 years.

This experience is not one I will easily forget. From the panels to PLEN’s 40th Anniversary Reception, I was able to learn from the best and put my networking skills to the test. I grew as a person more than I ever expected to at the week-long seminar, and I will always remember the words of the wise panelists. 

Rachel Ham graduated from Hood College in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and law. She is currently a master’s student at Northwestern University where she is studying public policy, with a specialization in global policy. She attended the Women in Global Policy seminar in 2019.

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