The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Emily

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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My next guest on the series is the very first person I met when I arrived in Manhattan to start my freshman year at K-State (well, other than my student visit as a high school senior.) I vividly remember walking in the front door at the Smurthwaite Scholarship/Leadership House for Women with my Dad and being greeted by Emily’s friendly smile. I also remember after my Dad said hello, he added “what the hell is that sound out there?” …It was August in Kansas, so the cicadas were in full force, but we don’t have those in the Pacific Northwest and didn’t know what they were. I was completely embarrassed but Emily was pretty amused, so I guess I didn’t ruin her first impression of me 🙂

I share that partially because it helps to paint a picture of how warm, friendly and lighthearted Emily is. She really looked out for me especially during my first semester as I navigated being an out of state student, for which I will forever be so grateful for. Even though she ended up transferring schools after my freshman year (which was a really brave decision!), she certainly left an impression on me in many ways. Emily is compassionate, fun, creative and shares my love for a good story. She has a lot of lessons and experiences I think many can relate to and appreciate, so I hope you enjoy hearing her story!

-Amanda 

Name: Emily Snell
Age: 28
Hometown: Ellinwood, KS
College: Lipscomb University and Kansas State University
Degree(s): Bachelor of Arts in Communication, Graduate Certificate in Conflict Management
Current Location: Nashville, TN
Current Job: Team Assistant at The Upper Room

College

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
K-State: Smurthwaite Scholarship/Leadership House – regular house activities plus serving as Outreach Recruitment Chair, copy editing and writing for The Collegian, campus ministry, volunteering in my church’s nursery
Lipscomb: internship at United Methodist Communications, lots of part time jobs – student worker in the university business office, nanny, freelance writer for United Methodist Communications, managing editor & then editor-in-chief for the university’s student news website Lumination Network

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
After sophomore year, I decided to move to Nashville and transfer schools. I loved K-State, but I felt a calling from God to go to Nashville. So, despite the fact that it was very out of character for me, I went. Transferring to a new school and moving to a new city where I knew only one person was a big adjustment. I had to pay my own rent, so it was difficult at times to manage multiple part-time jobs while also going to class and doing homework. And living off campus and having so many responsibilities didn’t leave me with a lot of opportunities to meet other students or find new friends. I wasn’t involved on campus much except for my participation in journalism activities. I had great friends within the department, but otherwise, I felt a little disconnected from the rest of the student body. On a small campus, that feels strange. But I was grateful for my small circle of good friends, and I’m still connected with those people today.

Another challenge came at the very end of college. I loved my time at Lipscomb, and I’m so grateful for the way it has shaped my life. But I did have to grieve some when the reality hit me that I would never be a K-State alum. I grew up in a family that, as we like to say, “bleeds purple.” When I came back to Manhattan in May 2012 to watch some friends graduate, I felt genuine sorrow that I was not on the stage with them. As much as I loved Lipscomb, it didn’t quite feel right to know that K-State isn’t my alma mater. I’m proud of Lipscomb and the good work they do in the Nashville community, and I’m thankful for the people I met there who have helped shape me. My diploma may not come from the university I dreamed about, but it’s from a place that I love and appreciate. Sometimes the real picture of life doesn’t turn out the way we imagined, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful!

 

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Be flexible with your future job expectations and be creative about finding ways to do what you love. Your “dream job” may not appear immediately, so identify what you’re passionate about and what brings you joy and then create a way to implement that in your life, even if it’s not an income-producing opportunity right away. And as you carve out a path for your career, try to be patient with the journey. In my experience, figuring out a meaningful work life can take time, and just like a real journey, the path may not be straight forward.


Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
When I graduated, I didn’t have a job lined up, so I kept nannying and freelancing while I interviewed for positions at various companies. After a few months, Lipscomb’s Business Office (where I had worked as a student) contacted me about an opening. I thought it would be something to keep me afloat for a few months, but it turned into something I really enjoyed. I worked there as cashier for a year and then was promoted to Student Accounts Representative. I held that position for 3 years and really expanded my knowledge and skills. I grew in ways that I didn’t expect. Serving in that role pushed me to improve my math skills, my leadership abilities, and my capacity for dealing with conflict. Collecting money is not easy…

During my time at Lipscomb, I also worked as a freelance journalist. Freelancing gave me an opportunity to pursue my passions for writing and storytelling. I wrote regularly for Interpreter magazine, the publication for The United Methodist Church, and also wrote two cover stories for Sisterhood magazine. Working for Sisterhood gave me the chance to interview Mandisa and Kari Jobe, two Christian musicians that I love. It was really fun and a special privilege!

This fall I began a new job at The Upper Room. Though my time at Lipscomb was wonderful, I had begun to feel that I needed a transition if I was going to continue learning and growing. And I wanted to do what I really love and more fully embrace my gifts and my journalism/English degree. I now serve as Team Assistant for our Administration, Interpretation, and Development team. In this role, every day looks different – sometimes I’m processing invoices or coordinating logistics for meetings; other times I’m proofreading website content; other times I’m acting as a sounding board for our publisher’s latest ideas; other times I’m calling donors to thank them for supporting our work. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet with our books & marketing team to select covers for new books we’re publishing, and I’ve worked with the editions team on selecting meditations for our daily devotional guide. Regardless of the specific tasks, each day I know that I’m a part of an organization that makes a difference in the spiritual lives of people around the world. That brings me a great sense of satisfaction.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
My internship, campus publication experience, and freelance opportunities in college really served me well with finding more freelance jobs after graduation. I think my ability to maintain multiple jobs while also being a full-time student during college prepared me for balancing a full-time job and part-time job as an adult.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
Insurance – Why is health insurance so complex and confusing?? I never feel very confident that I’ve made the right choice on the best health care plan! I need a health advisor, please.

Budgeting – I’m bad at this game. Life is just too fun and too full of opportunities, and my bank account is always resisting my urge to enjoy! 😉 Let’s hope that before I’m 30, I learn how to balance my finances more strategically.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
Anticipating needs and meeting them thoroughly/efficiently

Connecting with people and building relationships

Editing – If there’s a typo, I’ll find it. If you need something proofread, I’m your girl!

Organizing

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
Make a thorough to-do list

Take a walk

Practice some deep breathing

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?

Read

Journal – Pen to paper continues to be one of the best ways for me to know myself and feel grounded in life.

Walk – It’s amazing how a little time on a nature trail can restore me.

Spend time with friends

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Conflict Management certificate – During my time in the Business Office, I realized that I needed to gain some knowledge and skills around addressing conflict. No one in my office seemed prepared or certain of how to handle the difficult conversations we had each day. So, I decided to take advantage of Lipscomb’s Institute for Conflict Management. I took 15 hours of graduate coursework, earned a certificate in conflict management, and then put those skills to work in my daily interactions with customers. I also did my best to share that knowledge with my team so that we could all do better and feel more confident.

Leadership in Business Office – Though I was one of the youngest employees in the office, I had more experience in the office than many of my coworkers. (The stress of the job leads to a lot of turnover, so several employees came in after I started.) These coworkers looked to me for leadership and support, and I did my best to, as one of my professors would say, “lead up and lead out” with those in my office.

Mentoring college women – I love college students, and I consider it an honor to be a mentor in the lives of several young women at Lipscomb. Being with them brings me joy and teaches me about the many opportunities we have to learn from one another.

Freelance work – especially my interviews with Mandisa and Kari Jobe

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
The Contributor – On Saturday mornings, I volunteer at a local organization that provides economic opportunities for homeless and formerly homeless people in the Nashville area. These men and women teach me so much about determination, resilience, and positivity.

Ethos Church – I’m really involved in my church, serving on the set up team, participating in a house church (small group), and offering leadership & insight & support wherever I can.

Being an aunt – I have 3-year-old nephew Walter and an almost-1-year-old niece Elanor. They are precious, and being their aunt is so fun!

Compassion International – I sponsor 3 children with Compassion International. Being connected with these kids and their families reminds me of the similarities among people all over the world. Their letters make me smile. Sponsoring them helps me know that I’m doing something meaningful with my life. I’m participating in something bigger than myself and spending my money in a way that makes a lifetime impact on these kids and their families. In 2014, I was able to travel to Burkina Faso and meet Veronique, my sweet little girl there. It was an amazing experience that continues to shape me!

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Becoming an editor in the publishing world or working in communications/marketing/development for a non-profit… I’m 28 and I still don’t know what I want to do with my life!

Even though I’m type A and a chronic overachiever, I’m actually not much of a goal-setter. I prefer to pay attention to what’s happening in the here and now and be open to opportunities as they come my way. I trust that as I say yes to what seems right in the current season, it will lead me toward a good path for the future. Maybe that’s foolish. But I think, for me, it’s a healthy balance of being proactive while maintaining open hands and an open heart.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?

Coffee + a little time to sit quietly in my recliner reading and enjoying said coffee 🙂

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Spotify – must have music!

Good pens

Post it notes

What does it say about me if my vices are post-it notes and good pens? I’m a nerd, but I’ve learned to embrace it!

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
Professor

University president

CEO of a startup

COO at a tech company

Boss lady at a New York fashion mag

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
I miss the freedom of pre-adulthood… plenty of independence but few real responsibilities like paying bills or choosing health insurance

Living with my best friends and always having someone to hang out with

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Emily took me to my very first K-State football game during my freshman year in 2009. Look how little we look!

Emily, thank you so much for participating as a guest on my series. Hoping my plan for a trip to Nashville next year works out!

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Brian

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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I love that living in DC has brought such a wide variety of people into my life. One of those people is Brian, who I met through a young adult’s small group at church. As he elaborates below, Brian has a really unique sense of optimism and an attitude toward life that is really refreshing.  He is an avid traveler/adventurer, a genuinely fun person to be around and maybe its because he’s a fellow writer, but I’ve always noticed and appreciated how intentional he is in his conversations with others. With all that and what I knew of his journey post-college so far, I was really looking forward to reading Brian’s answers to my questions and now I am equally excited to share his story with you.  As his friend, I also really enjoy living vicariously through his Snapchat as he chases Congressmen around the Capitol on the daily.

-Amanda 

Basics

Name: Brian Cheung
Age: 24
Hometown: Rockaway, NJ
College: Syracuse University
Degree(s): Broadcast & Digital Journalism, Finance
Current Location: Washington, DC area
Current Job: Financial Journalist

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
When I was a kid, I went to a birthday party at a venue called “Imagination Station.” It was basically a big play place where you could pretend to be in different jobs (farmer, firefighter, chef). One of those booths had a make shift broadcast news set, which I ended up loving. That’s how I knew I wanted to be a journalist.

Syracuse was one of my top schools because of its journalism program. I applied, got a scholarship, and headed up to the winter tundra for four years of journalism school, where I also picked up another degree in finance.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I was in a fraternity, hosted some news programs on our on-campus news station, started a community service organization with some friends called Circle K (collegiate version of Kiwanis), was part of the Cru Christian fellowship, lead campus tours, and wrote for the college newspaper.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
As you can see from the answer above it was mostly time management. By senior year I was pretty spent.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Don’t feel bad to ease up on some of your extracurricular obligations if it means spending more time to develop relationships with your professors and your friends. Some of the best people I’ve ever met were people I crossed paths with during college. With the uncertainty of where people move post grad, it’s important to cherish the time you have on campus with those people.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
After I graduated, I moved to Arlington, Va. to start a job as an analyst at the Federal Reserve. One year in, I decided I wanted to go back into journalism and accepted an opportunity to become a reporter covering banking at S&P Global Market Intelligence, an industry news organization.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
The best lessons from college came outside of the lecture halls. Through class projects, campus activities, and other experiences on campus, I had to learn how to problem solve on the fly and work with people to put together an assignment, organize a fundraiser, or broadcast a news segment. Strong communication skills, critical thinking, and leadership qualities are all intangible things that can boost your professional stock in basically any career.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
The mundane but necessary functions of being an adult: feeding yourself, not forgetting to pay your bills and/or rent, and filing taxes.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I put a lot of things on the digital calendar (Outlook, iCal).

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
My strength is my unwavering optimism. It takes a lot to break me, and I’d like to think that I can overcome any challenge I face.

My weakness is probably taking on so many challenges that I end up breaking.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
I like to remind myself that not only is there a purpose for doing all of these things – there’s a reason for why I’m the one doing them.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
I don’t think much about work-life so much as I think about the fitness of mind-body-soul. Work and school keep the mind sharp, exercise keeps the body fit and church keeps the soul filled.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
I’m proud that I’ve managed to juggle full-time work and part-time school (pursuing an M.S. in Applied Economics at Johns Hopkins University) without forgetting to feed myself.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
During the weekdays, life is basically the following: sleep, work, study, exercise. They don’t always need to follow that order but I try to touch all four of those activities in a given day.

On the weekends, I really enjoy being outside: basketball, running, hiking. As someone who gets cabin fever very easily, I love to get out of the apartment and explore new places, which is easy to do in the sprawling D.C. metro area. My favorite thing to do: pick a new neighborhood I haven’t been to, hide in a local coffee shop or restaurant and study.

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Stay tuned!

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
A few days a week I’ll go to the gym or run before I head to work. For me that’s a great way to get your mind and body in full working mode by 9am.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I jokingly describe myself as a “social coffee drinker” because I never really drank coffee before I started working. But as a journalist I’m always meeting with people over coffee, so I’ve been drinking coffee a lot as of late (particularly the Dunkin Donuts coffee in the Longworth House Office Building).

…but normally I drink green tea. Another must-have vice: a snack for 10am (can rarely make it between breakfast and lunch without getting hungry).

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
No limitations aside, I would be a travel journalist with a television show. My favorite things are travel and food, so naturally I would want to do exactly what Anthony Bourdain does.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
I miss the Syracuse basketball games at the Carrier Dome where I often lost my voice. I miss the late night munchies along Marshall Street and I really miss singing along to Americana jams at the college bar, Chucks. But most of all, I miss the people I used to do all those things with.

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Brian, thank you for taking the time out of your busy career and student double life to be a guest on this series!

Cheers!