I was crushing the interview, articulating my answers better than I had expected. I talked all about my hometown, my majors, my summer jobs and internships, my involvements in classes, and my future career aspirations. But then one seemingly simple question completely paralyzed my momentum.
“So, what has been your favorite college experience thus far?”
Why was I drawing such a blank? This was such an open-ended question and I could literally say anything. But I was frozen, my mind unable to dig through the file cabinets of the last four years and isolate one particular moment or experience.
In my awkwardly long and silent rumination, I questioned my entire college life. Had I seriously never done anything special enough to answer this question? What really has been the most meaningful experience I’ve had here? I apologized to the interviewer, telling him that I just wanted to think for a second (or hour) before launching into a half-developed thought.
Another 10 seconds passed.
I started realizing why this question was so difficult for me to answer. Everything that I had previously talked about during the interview and everything I usually talk about when it comes to college has been more of a bulleted list of the things I had done or accomplished. But that list and that resume don’t define who I am or reveal what I care most about. It would be superficial to assume that my personality can be summed up by my resume.
Suddenly, I had an answer. During my first year of college, I went on a 17-mile ghost tour/ backpacking trip in West Virginia with a bunch of strangers who had also signed up for the trip through the Outdoors club at my school. The backpacking trip itself wasn’t necessarily my favorite college experience, but what I learned from the trip and how I still reflect on that trip has truly impacted my college experience on a more wholesome level.
This trip made me realize the importance of balance I needed in my life. Part of my mindset is very dedicated to schoolwork—I never skip or show up late to classes, I always try to go above and beyond on my assignments, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to get all A’s. I care about doing well, and that requires a lot of dedication and time spent thinking in a very regimented, academic mindset.
But the other half of me hates structure, organization, and planning. Sometimes, I want to forget about work and spontaneously go on a hike, take a run, or binge-watch a whole series on Netflix. A lot of us are like that. But sometimes it’s difficult to enjoy spontaneity when the other half of your mind is nagging on you, reminding you about all the responsibilities and work you should be tackling.
So, when I’m having that internal battle with myself, I think about that backpacking trip. My first year self that went on the trip can’t be lost in the shuffle of growing up and taking on more responsibilities. That curious explorer is part of who I am, and I need to remember that he needs to be taken care of sometimes too.
I know that’s probably not the best answer to tell an employer who was interviewing me about a job that inherently requires devotion and many responsibilities, but that was my most honest response. Honesty counts for something, right?