“ Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” – Jalaluddin Rumi
Samantha “Sam” Stevens graduated in 2017 with a major in Psychology and a minor in Engineering. After graduating Sam moved to Austria where she currently lives working as an au pair. She is also currently pursuing a Masters in Organizational Leadership through Gonzaga’s online graduate school.
Sam was kind enough to answer our questions, and let us share her story.
What interested you the most about Psychology and Engineering?
Coming into Hope, I really thought that engineering was going to be the path for me. In high school, I always excelled in the math and sciences; it just seemed like the natural next-step. As an eager freshman, I set up my four-year plan in the engineering department. However, as my classes began I felt a disconnect between my head and my heart; I didn’t quite feel like it was just the right fit for me. By my second semester at Hope, I was already experimenting in just about every different academic department the school offers! From the pre-med track, to education and a composite-major; I tried it all! My junior year I ended up declaring an engineering major because I knew it was something that I could finish in time, do well, and it also gave me job security. Engineering aligned with my skills, but not necessarily my heart; my identity was not woven into my work. With the patience of a lot of mentors, professors, and loved-ones, I was encouraged to listen to those heart-tugs. They could see something in me that I couldn’t see in myself. I am such a relational person, I love people. Studying the way we function was so exciting for me! I found a home senior year with the faculty, staff, and students in the psychology department. I was still able to exercise a bit of my math-science brain as I finished my engineering minor. The two fields are more connected than I ever realized (of course, we engineers do things for people!). I am sure my background in both will serve me well some day. It took a lot of patience and experimentation. Eventually, I found a path that was life-giving because I could work out of my strengths, passions, values, and skills. It’s out there for everyone, I just think it takes some digging to find.
In what ways did you begin to listen to yourself and your own opinions on what you should do post-grad?
Approaching graduation is a daunting time. There is this totally unrealistic pressure that the moment you graduate you should have the exact vision of what you are going to do for the rest of your life and the perfect job landed for it. I felt it, and I know my peers did too. But the problem was, I had no idea. Some of the best advice I was given during that time was that we can only always “do the next best thing.”I’ve always had a curiosity about the world, I love to travel and experience new cultures and places and people. I wasn’t quite sure of a career path, I thought I’d take some time to nurture this “travel-bug” while I was discerning the “next best” and work as an au pair in Austria. In the time between committing to the au pair experience and graduation, I also (thanks to the CDC) learned of a masters program in Organizational Leadership. I found one online from Gonzaga University that also has a concentration in Servant-Leadership; an academic program focusing on developing leadership practices while serving others…I was sold! It was something that bridged the gap a bit between my psychology and engineering experiences. It also allowed me to tap even further into my own natural inclinations and strengths, plus I could work on it from Austria. I found the “next best”.
What has your au pair experience been like ?”
My time in Austria has been exciting, adventurous, uncomfortable and everything between. I think anything you do after graduation is a bit like that because it is a big change when you uproot yourself from the special community that is Hope College. In a strange way, though, this next season is a bit of a parallel of my time at Hope. It’s all about experimenting, dipping my toes in lots of different waters until I can find that place of both identity and integrity in what I do. During my time abroad I have had a lot of time and space to define what I hope that will look like for me. Adding to this, is all that I am learning in my studies of Organizational Leadership. It’s been a time to slow down, trust in the constancy of the Father in the changing of seasons, and defining the “next best.”
How do you feel that your experience at Hope helped you become who you are today?
Oh goodness, that’s an even tougher one! Hope College had a hand in shaping me in more ways than I can count. I was built up and encouraged by the strongest community I have ever experienced. I was invested in by countless staff and faculty members in a way that drives me to do the same to others. My worldview was greatly expanded during my experiences abroad and on campus alike. In the greatest way though, during my time at Hope my faith was nourished to growth I could never have imagined. I came to know our God deeply and found roots just as deep in His Word, His promises, and His character—and I feel so confident in those roots alone walking through all the seasons that lay ahead.
A liberal arts education is one that can open a door to thousands of possibilities. I loved Sam’s story, because she managed to combine the two things I need and want to do…attend graduate school and travel the world. Her story gave me insight into what it looks like to follow your dreams. It also gave me hope, in the sense that not having everything figured out by now does not mean I am ruining my life. I hope you gained something as well!