her campus american: three years later

her campus american self magazine workout on the quad

Happy 3rd birthday, Her Campus American! I’m sharing the story of how I started the online magazine while studying abroad and looking back at my favorite moments, like SELF Magazine’s Workout on the Quad and traveling to Southeast Asia with Contiki. Today I’m celebrating the amazing HCAU team—here’s to the many more fabulous birthdays to come!

HCXO

my best advice for recent graduates

paris window view

I remember this time last year so clearly. I had no idea where I would live, what I would do or when I would inevitably enter the real world. The one thing I was sure of? I was going to travel for the next few months.

Some thought I was crazy (and they probably still do). Others were mildly supportive, saying things like “I wish I could do that” or “you’re so lucky.” Let me tell you—luck had nothing to do with it.

It takes time to discern what you want to do and what you think you’re supposed to do. There’s no right answer. You may have friends doing everything from killing it at their dream jobs and prepping for grad school to drowning in job applications and wallowing on their parents’ couch.

The first thing you have to do is stop comparing yourself to your peers. After fighting for the best grades, the most notable internships and the busiest social calendar, you’re constantly checking to see where you stand. And for what? During a period of unemployment, I felt like I was behind. So many people seemed to have it together. Success has different meanings—it doesn’t look the same to everyone, and the amount of time it takes to get to (your idea of) it varies.

So, after you do that, this is my best advice:

Follow your passion.

So cheesy, yet so true. The most exciting, liberating time of your life is when you’re fresh out of college. No one’s telling you what to do next. You are risky enough to succeed and smart enough to learn when you fail. Identify your passion, and throw yourself into it. If you stay focused, work hard and be nice to people along the way, you’ll find that doing what you love and success, however you choose to define it, aren’t very different at all.

My passion was living in Paris. I didn’t throw myself into it, but I did take a plane.

 

link love

eiffel tower dusk - lesley siuYesterday was the Tour Eiffel‘s 125th birthday! Can I go back to Paris to celebrate?

1. A serious case of wanderlust: 52 places to go in 2014. Since a quarter of the year has already passed, I need to catch up. Where to, next? (The New York Times)

2. Girl crush: women in media who are killing it. I love this conversation with women leaders of advertising and media. Fascinating personal stories and insightful advice like Cosmopolitan’s Joanna Coles’ on work-life balance: “And I think it’s a particularly American obsession, as is the quest for perfection. I think we should embrace the chaos. … I think life and careers have ebbs and flows and you can’t give everything, all things, all the time.” Preach. (Adweek)

3. Spring fashion trends and how to wear them, courtesy of Vogue. I’m hoping to see more pleated skirts and less sport sandals… Please don’t let that become a thing. (Vogue)

4. Everyone’s talking (tweeting) about… The How I Met Your Mother finale. Glamour sums it up just about right. While some moments were a little out there (The divorce, Barney having a daughter, Marshall as a Supreme Court judge), I thought it was a solid ending to the series.

5. Four critics, one restaurant. It just happens to be one of my recent favorites: Daikaya. (Washington Post Magazine)

education for life

vanity fair france - lesley siu

 via Instagram

I may no longer be in school, but I’m still a student. You could say I’m a little too curious about the world for my own good. Well, that might explain why I love living abroad and traveling solo. The good thing about being easily fascinated and hungry to learn is that there are so many resources to do so. I could sit on Twitter all day and click through article after article. I could people-watch for hours and observe how people communicate, move and interact. I could see a film or opera in a foreign language, not understand a word, and still enjoy every second of it.

Practically speaking, I know I can’t know everything. But I’d rather know a lot about a little than a little about a lot. Right now, I’m focusing on deepening my knowledge on a few subjects for personal and professional growth.

Language: One of my goals is to be fluent in another language. It’s certainly a challenge living in an English-speaking country, and it takes a huge amount of discipline to keep practicing. For the field I work in, the ability to speak a different language is a huge asset. I learned French best through immersion during my time in Paris, but Duolingo and old copies of French Vogue will just have to do for now. C’est la vie.

Personal finance: Managing my money is both exciting and terrifying. Mostly, it’s just terrifying. I tried to plan ahead by taking personal finance during my freshman year of college, but all I remember is being confused enlightened by taxes, interest and investments. Reality check: this money business is no monkey business. From monthly budgeting to long-term financial planning, I am constantly looking for ways to save more, spend less and make smart decisions with my dollars. I subscribe to DailyWorth, read books like The Millionaire Next Door and try not to stress over the spreadsheet with every single penny I’ve spent.

HTML/CSS: This is part of the reason why this website exists. Creating and managing it has helped me develop web skills vital to my day job. Just don’t call me a web developer…yet. I can’t seem to find the discipline to stick to Codecademy, but I sure learn a lot by frequently changing design elements on this site and exploring features I’d like to add. Trial and error never felt so good (or looked so bad).

What are you currently learning? Any resources to recommend?

making big moves

dupont circle snow washington dc - lesley siu

Actually, a move was already made. Literally—I moved back to DC!

On Wednesday, I flew in and went straight to my new job in global marketing. I searched for an apartment on Thursday, signed a lease on Friday and moved in on Saturday. Basically, my transition to the real world was like ripping off a Band-Aid.

My job search process was tough. I expected rejection, but I didn’t expect the tedious work it takes just to apply. I spent three days in Paris doing a creative assignment, did an interview via FaceTime from Laos and received a time-sensitive writing exercise right before I left LAX for Thailand—and didn’t get any of the positions. I sought advice from anyone and everyone I could think of, but I never heard back from most. It was discouraging.

But being at the bottom is a humbling experience. I was grateful for the people who did help me—and I wouldn’t be here without their encouragement. It’s cheesy, but sometimes, you really do need to be pushed down in order to get back up again. Shortly after getting a part-time job and writing “HUSTLE” on a Post-in on my desk, things started picking up.

I never doubted by choice to travel before working full-time. It actually prepared me for the craziness of moving so quickly. Once you leave everything to go to a foreign country alone, things like a surprise phone interview and the possibility of being homeless don’t really scare you. Okay, they might just a little bit. But for the record, I kept my cool in both of those situations.

I am excited to start this new chapter of my life and especially happy to be back in a city I love.

So… Any tips for decorating a studio apartment? Upcoming events in DC? Words of wisdom for entering the workforce?

life in limbo

Gerard Mulot desserts in ParisEating my feelings at Gerard Mulot.

Absent from the blogosphere for a week. An entire week!

I had a serious case of “What am I doing with my life?” Totally not a valid excuse, but it’s true.

Last week (month) was all fun and games—lunches, picnics, exploring, meeting new people and catching up with old friends. I loved it. By Friday, I was certain about one thing: I want to work in Paris.

One thing I wasn’t so sure about: How could I do it?

As a U.S. citizen, the chances are slim. As a recent college grad with virtually no professional experience and very basic language skills? So much slimmer. Dare I say, nearly impossible. While I love a good challenge, I hate when the circumstances are out of my control. I’ve been spending hours researching my options. Being an au pair, teaching English or going to grad school aren’t exactly what I planned or want to do now, but could/should I make that sacrifice to live in Paris for a year or two? I want to learn French and know that I’ll learn best by immersion. But, I know that I could be perfectly happy working in the States.

In this weird stage of freedom and uncertainty, here are questions I’ve been asking myself:

1. What am I good at?

2. What do I like to do?

3. What inspires me?

4. What do I want to accomplish in the next 5 and 10 years, and how can I get there?

5. <every personal finance related question about budgeting and saving>

6. Who can help me?

7. What is my ideal life plan?

As a dear friend wrote in an e-mail:

“When we’re in school, it feel as though we’re always working towards something. now that we’ve passed that threshold, there is no drawn out plan for us.”

I couldn’t agree more.

What questions do you ask yourself for personal and professional growth?

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