John Gehman '21
Finding your path in the IS Program and beyond
Remember those dreaded summer reading assignments in high school? Well, one of those books which I frantically scrambled to read was The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. Though I was in a panic to finish, I remember being stopped by one quote which has stuck with me since: “When you want something, all the universe conspires to in helping you achieve it.” I never realized how true this was until I started my sophomore year as an IS major.
At this time a year ago, I had no idea where I wanted to study abroad. I felt lost and an added pressure as an International Studies major to choose the right location in which to study abroad. Simultaneously, I always faced the dreaded question, “What do you want to do after college?” In reality, I did not even know my IS concentration, let alone what I wanted to do.
Eventually, I received a piece of advice that helped me understand what I wanted to do: “Reflect on what you have done. That will show you your natural interests.” After reflecting on it, I suddenly realized that through my involvement in the Undergraduate Government of Boston College, the Thea Bowman AHANA & Intercultural Center, and the Learning to Learn office that I had a natural interest in social justice. Additionally, I had been thinking about adding a Philosophy minor since my first year, so the Ethics and Social Justice track was perfect for me. Yet, that still left me with what I wanted to do in the future.
One day, I opened up my email about an open position on Dr. Peter Krause’s Project on National Movements and Political Violence and just threw in my application. I got an interview, but I thought I bombed the interview and would not be selected. However, to my surprise, I was accepted. At the same time, I took two of my favorite courses at BC, Global Ethics and Pragmatic Solidarity Seminar and Sustaining the Biosphere. Both of these courses focused on ethics and systems theory, which made me realize that I made the right decision. I was also working tirelessly with Dr. Jennifer Erickson, who has been one of my greatest mentors at Boston College. She helped me with applications for an Advanced Study Grant for Language Acquisition, the McNair Scholars Program, and a research program abroad -- all of which were successful. To finish off the year, the University also awarded me the Timothy M. Padulsky Award (Sophomore Ever to Excel Award) and the McGillycuddy-Logue Travel Grant. I finished the spring semester on such a high note.
I studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, during the past summer, and am currently studying abroad in Quito, Ecuador. In Argentina, I had the opportunity to travel each weekend to many different places in the Southern Cone and Brazil. My favorite trips were the ones to Iguazú, Mendoza, and Jujuy. Here in Ecuador, my program has traveled to San Clemente, a proud Indigenous village, and will be traveling to the Galapagos and the Amazon. I cannot wait to have so many more experiences abroad. However, if it weren’t for my many mentors and friends who supported me, I might have missed what I really wanted most.
John Gehman '21