St. Edward’s graduate defers Berkeley Ph.D. program to serve in Jamaica, Thailand

As a student at St. Edward’s, I thought I had my future planned out relatively well. I would graduate, complete a Ph.D., pursue a career in scientific research and eventually change the world for the better.

Through years of fellowship and scholarship applications, I laid out rigorous goals and solidified my ambitions. My plans came together during my final semester as I accepted a place in the Chemistry Ph.D. program at the University of California, Berkeley.

After graduation, as excited as I was for Berkeley, something in me resisted. Initially, I chalked it up to nostalgia for my St. Edward’s community and uncertainty about my next steps.

However, I came to realize it was more than that. After much reflection and consultation with family and friends, I deferred my acceptance at Berkeley for a year. Inspired by my involvement in the Service Break Experience program (SBE) through St. Edward’s Campus Ministry, I looked for long-term service opportunities and was lucky to spend several months volunteering at the Annie Dawson Home for Children, a girls orphanage in Kingston, Jamaica.

Now, I’m a volunteer teacher at the Father Ray Foundation in Pattaya, Thailand, primarily working with adults and children with disabilities.

While I initially searched for the familiarity of St. Edward’s and SBE, I now find myself surrounded by new things—new languages, lifestyles, driving etiquette and so much more. It’s not easy, but I’ve accepted that I can’t always have things completely planned out.

Now, I’m once again excited about getting back into classes and chemistry laboratories this fall.

So my advice to any soon-to-be or recent graduates: don’t be afraid to take the time you need for yourself. Slow down and go somewhere or do something completely out of your comfort zone. There are service opportunities and other opportunities as close as Austin, halfway around the world and everywhere in between.

We all have ambitions to change the world, but I’ve learned it’s equally valuable to discover and change yourself.