Being a student is admittedly the most difficult role I have ever dedicated myself to. In a time where a degree that costs thousands is worth less and less each day, it is extremely difficult to maintain motivation to continue. Adding student leader, fraternity Brother, community activist, employee, daughter, sister, friend, and the many other hats I wear into the mix, it is easy to fall into a mundane routine. Although the work I do can be rewarding, it is also exhausting trying to figure out the purpose of all I do. It is true that through higher education, one learns skills that will help them advance in the “real world”, but now entering my third year in my university, I realize that these skills prove fruitless without application. Students attain these skills through their on-campus involvement, but graduate lost and without direction. At institutions in low-income areas populated primarily by communities of color, like mine, this issue is only amplified.  I have seen this occur with even the most prepared students, which begs the question: What more can universities do to provide their students with the experience they need to feel confident navigating the professional world?

I woke up October 24th excited about the opportunities and challenges that laid ahead as my University’s Sword & Shield Leadership Honor Society prepared to visit Buzzfeed’s office in New York. The tour we received was breathtaking. What appealed to me the most about the physical layout of the office was the way that everyone shared spaces and built a sense a community amongst them. While on the tour, we stopped and listened to a panel on what more Buzzfeed’s employees could do to further foster a diverse and inclusive environment for marginalized folks. The panelists’ comfortability in addressing their concerns and the audience’s ability to listen objectively was amazing to witness.  Upon finishing our tour, three Buzzfeed employees volunteered their time to sit on a panel to answer our questions on career and personal development and leadership in the workplace. Their honesty and vulnerability exemplified that the “real world” does not have to be a cutthroat place and amongst the marginalized, opportunities to pay it forward are abundant. The endless workshops on leadership development, proper networking, and how to market oneself paid off as a handful of us walked out of the office that day with exclusive information about Buzzfeed’s internship opportunities, business cards, personal social media handles, and great connections.

This trip provided me the chance to apply all the skills I have acquired to use in one of the biggest production companies in the country. As a frustrated student leader, I finally felt inspired and confident that the work I do is worth it.

Sandy is a student at New Jersey City University studying Sociology and Women’s & Gender Studies. Sandy spends her time volunteering with multiple non-profit organizations that share her common mission of empowering individuals through diversity training and leadership development. She uses her numerous platforms to host conversations about social issues and effective ways to create change, while facilitating activities that foster personal growth and builds community.