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  • Writer's pictureJack Thomas, Penn State University

A Plane Ticket To Find Your Why

New Beginnings

In November, I was able to represent Penn State University as a member of the NMGZ Community and be a part of the Los Angeles trip. Being a new member, there were a ton of first moments for me that came with this experience, as well as many wonderful opportunities to learn from others. What seemed like a break from school turned out to be much more educational for finding my “Why.”

Furthermore, I had a chance to consider these questions. What are the things that I am looking for in a work environment? What kind of things could multi-million dollar companies do to make the experience of wanting to work for them better as a member of the Gen Z community?

One of the most breathtaking moments of this trip is that it is my first time ever flying out west. The difference in culture compared to the Mid-Atlantic blew me away. The contrast in fashion, language, food, lifestyle, and environment was very different to me, considering that I traveled from the middle of Pennsylvania--which is a complete 180--to Southern California.

Embracing Cultural Differences

When I first got to the hotel, I wanted to explore the area to see what makes Los Angeles such a popular place to visit. It was only right that my first meal on the West Coast was at In-N-Out Burger, as it is completely foreign on the East Coast. My next objective was to search for local shops and connect with people who were born and raised in the LA area to get their perspective on what everyday life really is like. Many of the people that I talked to were very friendly and even gave me “welcome to LA tips” on places to dine, local family stores that have been around for years, and some of the best places to explore.

When it came to finding food in LA, I would describe my experience as life-changing. Living in a college town, I have been brainwashed into thinking that fast food chains are the way to go. Exploring different communities and finding excellent spots for food that come from different cultures and areas of the world by far was my favorite thing on the trip. The variety extended from Thai, Latin American, Singaporean, and Iranian cuisine, to name a few. Being exposed to all of these different cultural dishes has made me expand my research in finding different cuisines to try throughout many unique cultures.

Ask, Take In, Reflect

Networking with multiple companies and guests throughout meetings and dinners helped me see a brighter outlook on what career path I want to take. Always wanting to be a part of the advertising industry, I asked marketing professionals questions such as “What did you do back in college to get into this position?” or “Is there anything you would advise to help me advance further in the interview process?” Learning from our special guests and members of the companies we visited was very valuable as I have taken their advice and am starting to see improvements in any interview I have. The best advice that has stuck with me is always to be yourself and don’t be discouraged if you do not get something from the jump, as an opportunity will come your way as long as you are patient. Reflecting on what I was told has been very beneficial when going through not only the internship application process but also everyday life.

Finding My Why

After a very long but memorable week, it was time to leave sunny California and return to snowy Pennsylvania. With a very long flight ahead of me, I had time to process everything that had just happened in the past week. I came to LA for the first time and became friends with a group of people that I had never met before. Sharing many different customs from all parts of the United States and other countries made the experience even better, considering I learned so much about many places I have yet to explore. Cherishing these friendships and the small amount of time that we had together made me appreciate the leap of faith that I made going on this trip.

Landing in Pennsylvania, my mindset switched from being comfortable with what I had going on to wanting to succeed and achieve even more than what I was doing. The sense of being content has always made me feel comfortable until I went on this trip and realized that there is so much more I want to accomplish. I want to be able to sit with like-minded people who share the same interests as me. I want to make a difference in the company I work with and even expand on potentially starting my own company. I want to be a part of the next group of leaders that contain future CEOs. I want to be able to travel the world and understand all cultures around me. All of these goals are doable, and this trip made me realize that taking action on the things I want will only happen if I take that leap.

Finding my "why" during this trip was very important as I truly was able to reevaluate what I am doing now and what I need to do to get to where I want to be. In the wise words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Finding my "why" is step one of many to turning my dreams into my destined reality.


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