What do I want to be when I grow up? I don’t want to be a doctor - the sight of blood makes me queasy. I don’t want to be a lawyer - I find the legal system too unnecessarily complicated (not to mention, boring). Engineer? Teacher? Business woman? Events planner? Travel agent? Astronaut? Marine biologist? No. No. No. No. No. No. And another no. From ages eight through 20, I thought I wanted to be an architect - but after two years studying architecture at UMD (University of Maryland), I realized that was a no, too. So now, here I am, 23 years old with a B.S. in Geography, trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
Here’s one thing I do know. I am good at math and science, but I also enjoy art and writing. I’m one of those lucky people whose brain is pretty equally balanced between the right and the left sides. Or, maybe I’m unlucky, because it makes choosing ONE career for the REST OF MY LIFE extremely difficult. Most positions are primarily scientific or creative… or neither. In fact, very few careers directly combine both skill sets. I am too stubborn to choose one over the other, so I have to find a job that will use both (but not architecture, because I already decided that isn’t right).
Whatever I do, it will make my life a lot easier if it relates at least a little bit to my undergraduate degree in geography. What does someone do with an undergraduate degree in geography? I know that’s what you’re thinking. It’s okay, I’m not offended. It’s a good question. What you may not know is that beyond high school, geography isn’t just the study of maps. I like to describe it as a mix of environmental science and sociology. Some students take their degree and go into urban planning. Others work for the government (like the US Census Bureau). A few get jobs protecting the environment. A lot go into GIS (Geographic Information Sciences), which is more technical - sort of like the computer science of geography. I don’t want to do any of those things.
Even though I don’t want to be a geographer, I still made the most of my time in the geography department. I interned at the National Geographic Society (what an awesome place!!), which I loved. My supervisor there was really supportive of my writing, and his encouragement is a big part of why I’m writing this blog right now. After that, I got a second internship with the Discovery Channel, where I gained some real experience in television production (no, they did not have a lot of geography majors in the office). I also generally enjoyed my geography coursework. I found it very interesting to learn about the world (its people and places) from an academic perspective.
Once I graduated from UMD with my degree, though, I had trouble finding a direction. I spent over a year just bouncing around. I traveled, I worked in a coffee shop, I held a few office jobs. Nothing was right. I was surprised to learn how unsettled the “real” world made me feel. I did not adjust well to staying put and working 9 hours a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year. I knew I wanted to go back to school. I just didn’t know what for.
That was a big problem for quite some time. You see, the thing is, it’s not a good idea to go back to grad school just avoid the real world. You need more of a plan than that (especially when you consider the cost). So I hunkered down and did my research. I interviewed people in a lot of jobs I was considering: urban planners, landscape architects, and even study abroad professionals. For some reason, I left every interview discouraged. I found negatives in every job that, for me, outweighed the positives. I kept finding myself thinking “ugh, that sounds awful, I don’t want to do that, get me out of here,” and then I would have to keep smiling and asking questions until the interview was over. After the fourth or fifth interview, I started to worry that it wasn’t the jobs that were wrong, it was me. That is, until I found broadcast meteorology. That was when everything clicked.
A broadcast meteorologist. AKA a weather girl. That’s what I want to be when I grow up. It requires a strong background in physics and calculus (yes, the people on tv do have to know what they’re talking about). It involves communication and creativity (did you know the weather forecasters on tv create their own graphics?). It relates to my undergraduate degree in geography (some atmospheric science programs are even based in geography departments, but more on that coming soon). It draws on my internship in television. I love the weather. And, it sounds like a lot of fun! Finally, I found a job that meets all of my requirements and makes me excited to join the “real” world. Now, I just need to make it happen.
Rachael has a B.S. in Geography from the University of Maryland and is currently applying to graduate school for broadcast meteorology.