PINC Alumni Reflections: Life Lessons Abroad

PINC Alumni Reflections: Life Lessons Abroad

I think that the worst possible question you could ask a kid is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” You ask someone to decide their course for the next few years that’ll determine the course of the rest if their lives, at least it feels that way. Or maybe I’m exaggerating, but it definitely pressures you into thinking, “I gotta get it together. Why don’t I know? I gotta know! Everyone else knows, why can’t I figure it out?” Those questions haunted me all throughout high school and even more so in college. I was conflicted between the things I enjoyed and what I thought was a smart choice.

In the Fall of 2013, I became a business student at Baruch College. CUNY’s notorious business school, one of the best business programs in the country.

Well, I hated it.

Within the first month, I continuously thought to myself, “Maybe college isn’t for me.” I was struggling with my classes but I had always been an honor student, it didn’t make any sense, this wasn’t supposed to be this hard! I was so stressed out that in my first year in school, I dropped 15 lbs.

It’s frustrating. It’s annoying. My friends were enjoying their classes--they actually enjoy this? The same thing was driving me crazy. Was I just not as smart as I thought I was? I honestly didn’t know what to think. I didn’t even know what I needed to get out of this funk.

In February of 2014, while at a fundraiser, an old teacher of mine suggested I talk to one of her old students. Ms. Duke said something along the lines of, “She’s starting this new program, professional connections something, something. Even if you’re not interested in the program, I think you should talk to her, here’s her information.”

Lisette Miranda:

“Well, okay, I’l reach out.” At this point, I was so confused as to what to pursue in school that I spoke to every single professional that I crossed paths with. I’d often asked them, “How did you know that this was what you wanted to do?” Every. Single. One. Did it give me a better sense of direction? Nope. Just confused me all the more.


PINC was definitely the churro con chocolate I needed on top of some other experiences that played into changing my mindset today. It allowed me to come to the conclusion that:

1. It truly doesn’t matter what other people think.

At the end of the day, no matter what someone else thinks is the right choice for you, ultimately you have to live with that decision day in and day out. And no one, not your parents, friends, coworkers, spouse, significant other — No. One. — will ever live out your life for you. You’ll move away someday, you’ll start a family, you’ll buy a house, are you going to look to those same people to tell you what to do? Of course not! It’s your decision and yours alone and although that’s very intimidating, it’s also extremely exciting… and not to scare you more, but it’s the first of many.

2. It’s never crystal clear

What I didn’t see then that I see now, is that there’s no one clear answer as to how to get to where you will be. It’s a mess. It’s a long weird squiggly line filled with pauses, breaks, bridges, turn arounds, stagnation, confusion, doubt, rapid declines, slow increases, and you’re still only half way there…maybe. Anyone who seems to have it effortlessly together did not arrive their effortlessly. They definitely did NOT wake up like that, feel me?

study abroad passport

3. What you lookin’ at fool?!

Yea you! Fool! You need to get really uncomfortable. You may feel like a fool abroad sometimes because you’re in a different setting than you’re used to, but you just gotta. Being outside of your box allows you to see the world differently. It’s weird because it challenges what you know as normal, but my goodness is it amazing when you open your eyes and mind to something other than your norm.

4. Where there’s a will there’s a way.

One of the things that I’ve enjoyed most about changing my major (YA, I DID IT Y’ALL!) was that I found people that were likeminded. I didn’t feel so out of place anymore. Things started to make more sense, my classes got easier to understand. I realized that the reason my friends were excelling in their respective courses was because they were being honest with themselves. They enjoyed those courses, they enjoyed the careers they were pursuing, they understood the material because they liked it! I didn’t, not because I wasn’t competent or because they were better than me, but because I simply didn’t like any of it. I struggled to study because I didn't care for the material I was learning.

When I declared a new major, a few minors, I started researching things to do in the fields I was interested in. Things started to make more sense, I pursued an internship at an art gallery on top of the job I had because I love it. I was a busy little bee, but I didn’t mind because it never felt like work. I picked up a third language, I finally felt like I had some sense of direction.

5. Try and try again.

You have to get your feet wet. You never know what you’re going to like until you try it. I figured that the best way to move forward with my decision to change my degrees was by pursuing something, anything, in those fields. I moved out to Boston, due to family circumstances, and grabbed what should’ve been a less than pleasant experience by the reigns and turned it around in my favor. I got a full-time job working in a killer hotel and also picked up an internship at an art gallery on one of Boston’s most famous streets. Do you know how cool it is to be less than a foot away from Dali’s signature?! Or how awesome it is to help hang an original Cezanne or Warhol? You don’t get that by staying in your comfort zone.

PINC really makes an effort to show us these things without explicitly saying all of them. That’s the best way to learn.

Everything I mentioned were things that I learned throughout the course of the program. No one at PINC told me to change my major, but what I learned about myself through PINC made me feel confident in completely redirecting my career. That’s huge!!

This experience pushes you to be alone and sufficient and amazing all at once.

PINC alumni and Lisette Sarah and Lisette


You’ll get the tools to get to where you want to go, but no one sits down and tells you where that exact destination is. You often figure that out by yourself by finding things out about yourself. It’s the greatest epiphany EVER! You learn so much when you’re outside of your comfort zone because you’re forced to adapt and be resilient. You realize how quick you can be and how much you enjoy or really dislike things you had never thought of.



Finally, it’s frigging SPAIN! The food is different, the people are different, the dang sidewalks are different. Don’t take the experience as just a travel opportunity, it’s so much more than that. Take it as an opportunity to really step out of your routine and be surrounded by other amazing, likeminded women that are ready to take over the world.

Remember, the future is female, and PINC definitely knows it, so go out there and kick some ass!

This article was contributed by PINC alumnus, Sarah Olivo. Sarah is 22 and currently a senior at Baruch College. Does she know what she's doing after graduation? Heck no! But, that's part of the fun. This Queens girl got the travel bug after going to PINC, so she's really hoping to be out and about once school ends. Aside from school, she's also been working in restaurants for a number of years. Sarah definitely thinks that visiting countries where the food and culture is different is very exciting. So, while she's waiting to graduate, you can find her eating some fries and downing some wine. ;) 

Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn or Instagram.


Written by marieltavakoli

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