Discovering What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

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 Like any other college student, I dread when family members ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” You’re told in high school that college is the time to study something you’re passionate about. For me, that was food: for as long as I can remember, I had worked at my father's pizza place, picked up back-of-house jobs as a line cook and a baker, and taken charge of our family’s backyard garden. When it came time to choose my major, I decided to spend the next four years learning all there is to know about food—from when it’s grown on a farm to the moment it reaches your fork.  

When I started taking classes at UNH within this major, I knew I was in the right place. I took a horticulture course, which had a lab where we were in the greenhouse, planting different vegetables and seeing how we could alter growing conditions to maximize growth and production. Later, I took an EcoGastronomy elective, which explored food in the context of ecology, ethics, nutrition and health all within the framework of sustainability. Every class I took reaffirmed that I had chosen wisely. So why was it still so hard for me to answer the “What do you want to be when you grow up” question?

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The truth was I could see myself doing a lot of different things: owning a restaurant, running a local farm, or even teaching courses on food systems and food production one day. At the same time, I had spent hours learning about how our food system is failing in a number of ways. One of the failures that hit me most was how even in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, there are still millions of people experiencing hunger every day. At first, this seemed unfathomable. Then, it dawned on me that this was my call to action–I’ve been lucky to always have reliable access to food, but that is a luxury some people in my community don’t have. I want a career that can contribute to food system reform, and accomplish what should be a very simple thing: making sure everyone has enough to eat.

That’s what brought me to Semester in the City. When I first began this program, I didn’t really know what jobs looked like in the anti-hunger field, and I didn’t know a whole lot about changemaking or problem solving. Luckily, SITC has changed all of that.

For my internship, I’ve been placed at an anti-hunger organization called Project Bread and am not only witnessing first-hand what work in this field looks like, but I’m also contributing to real change. I’m a hands-on learner, so having the chance to immerse myself into this work has not only reaffirmed what I am passionate about, but it has shown me there are numerous opportunities that exist in this line of work, despite the fact that it may be seen as a “niche” field. SITC is the perfect time to try on a career for size and to test out if this is really the work you want to be doing. In my case, I wanted to explore one of my many interests and dig deep into the possibilities that exist for me after college. All I know is that participating in SITC came at the right point in my college career and I’m so glad to have been given this opportunity to explore what I may want to be when I grow up.

Alex is a Sophomore at UNH and is a Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems & EcoGastronomy Dual Major. She is currently interning at Project Bread.