Q: I came to France over a year ago to study French literature on a junior year abroad program. I’ve been studying on my own and am officially on leave from my university in the States. I’d like to specialize in international relations in graduate school and become a diplomat. At the same time, I’m really more interested in literature than anything else, and I’d like to stay here for at least another six months. I feel that living here is the best way to give myself time to think about the future, but my parents are pressuring me to go home. Do you think that staying here can help me with my career plans?
A: As a university student, you are in transition from student life to the world of work. You will inevitably have questions you can’t answer and plans you won’t be able to realize. You will have wishes that are more or less possible to fulfill. However, you don’t seem to have made a decision about what you want to do. While both literature and international relations seem to appeal to you, those interests won’t be enough to help you enter the job market. Parents are justifiably concerned and anxious about their children’s future, so it is normal for them to want you finish your degree. You seem to have other plans that do not coincide with theirs. You will have to make a decision about what is best for you and what you really want. Do you see yourself using literature as a springboard for making a living? Can you imagine yourself working in international relations or are these just words you use to satisfy the curiosity of those who ask you what you want to do? You probably do need time to think about the future, but you might want to ask yourself whether staying here is a way of postponing involvement in the “real” world, or whether you can in fact use your time here to reach your goals. What do you really want to achieve by staying in France? If you can answer that question satisfactorily, you will be in a better position to prove to yourself that your decision is right for you. Consider Seneca’s words: “Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.”