Student News

Colombia #3: Embracing Uncertainty

June 20, 2014

Serena Ainslie ’16 reflects on the important lessons she learned from a Deerfield alum abroad:

Bogota Colombia Day 2

We didn’t hesitate to jump right into our trip with an action packed first day that included a visit to the Gold Museum, a walk around the Old City of Bogota, and a funicular ride to a breathtaking view of the entire city from Monserrate. But the part of the day that made the biggest impact on me was a talk we had with Deerfield alum Roberto Powers, Consul General of the U.S. Embassy in Colombia.

Cropped Group with Roberto Powers Day 1 Colombia

I went into the meeting knowing very little about foreign services, and ended the talk anxious to fill out an application. Roberto only spent two years at Deerfield before attending Wesleyan and then Harvard Law School, only because he “didn’t know what else to do.” After realizing that working for a law firm was the most boring thing he could do, he moved to France on a whim where he enrolled in university and was hired to work for an international company for eight years. This adventurous life full of risk taking and culture already sounded appealing to me, but when he started to talk about his experiences at each of the 10-plus countries where he had been stationed and the six languages he once spoke, I thought I was dreaming. His exciting stories of South Korea, Morocco, Sudan, Italy, and more sounded too good to be true.

While of course his incredible accounts only fueled my desire to travel more than ever, the most reassuring and important thing that I took from our meeting with him was the uncertainty he had about his future when he went to Deerfield. He told us that in high school, working in foreign services was the last thing he would have expected to be doing, especially since he didn’t know what a diplomat was until about 10 years later. The amount of times he changed his career path and still ended up with a job that he loves and has been doing for 29 years was a relief to hear about given the pressure our society puts on us to plan out our futures. Being told by a Deerfield alum that the future is flexible and that taking risks can pay off is something that will greatly influence the way I carry myself and think about my future throughout my remaining time at Deerfield and the rest of my life.