Jaselyn Taubel – College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University
|Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—|
|I took the one less traveled by,|
|And that has made all the difference.|
When people ask me how I got involved with the Southwestern Advantage Internship or when I was first introduced to the company, I’m never really sure what to say. Do I start with the summer day in middle school when my mom had me sit on the porch and take a look at some big blue books that a kid from Texas was showing her—books we later called “the Books of Knowledge,” since Volume Library didn’t seem descriptive enough? Or do I start with the rumors I heard as a sophomore that senior theatre major Jake Swenson wrote a check for his entire tuition at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University, the expensive private college we both went to? Honestly, I think I have to begin with the bus ride.
It was late January or early February 2008—I don’t quite remember which. I was standing in line for the bus that shuffled students between campuses, and Jake came up and starting talking to me. I was pretty surprised, since I had never really spoken to him, despite being in the same modern dance class and improv comedy group. As we got onto the bus, our conversation slowly wandered into the realm of summer work. I knew Jake “sold books,” and I also knew another theatre student had already been hired to work with him for the upcoming summer. He asked if I had anything planned for the summer yet, and I admitted that the one internship on campus I had applied for turned me down. I didn’t want to go home again and work at Wal-Mart, though. So he explained a little bit about his summer work and invited me to hear his brother Pete go over more details at a meeting later that week. Knowing that my dad would be less than happy to hear that I passed up an opportunity to find out how I could make over $8,000 for the summer, I agreed to squeeze it into my already busy schedule. As we got off the bus, I remember Jake saying, “I think you’d do really well at this.”
That made all the difference.
It took Jake three weeks to give me all the information I needed to feel confident making my decision to work in the Southwestern Internship for the summer. Being turned down for the on-campus internship had really shaken my belief in my ability to do anything other than schoolwork, and as a 4.0 student, you can imagine my adverseness to failure. But ultimately, it wasn’t the information that convinced me I could do this. It was Jake’s unwavering confidence in my ability to succeed and his patience in helping me decide that this was the right path for me to take.
My first summer with Southwestern was an unforgettable experience, though looking back now, most of the specifics are a bit hazy. But I do vividly remember one Sunday doing laundry and talking to my mom on the phone. She was asking me for advice about my brother’s college search, and for the first time, I felt like a capable adult, and it hit me that I was becoming the type of person I had always wanted to be: strong, confident, happy, and directed. I hate to think of where I would be had I not decided to work with Southwestern, and I am eternally grateful to Jake Swenson—now one of my best friends—for having the courage to invite me to hear about the Southwestern summer program, but especially for believing in me.
It’s this belief, this unending support for whatever I do in my life, that draws me back year after year to work with Southwestern. I find that after each summer, it gets more and more difficult to accept the pessimism that I see my “non-book” friends surrounding themselves with. The greatest gift that Southwestern Advantage has given me has not been the $65,000 I’ve made over three summers, nor the opportunity to live in Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania. For me, the greatest gift has been the extensive support network and wonderful friends that I have made. I am able to surround myself with the type of people who push me to be the best I can be, and who respect me for who I am. We bring out the best in each other, and we help each other to find the best in ourselves. And it’s this that has made all the difference.