Somewhere between conscious planning and going with the flow
|Date:||22 March 2022|
Hi! I am Dorottya Kósa from Budapest, Hungary and I am a master's graduate in Euroculture and in Social Networks. Currently, I am working as an EU policy officer at the Hungarian Ministry of Human Capacities.
As a fresh high school graduate, I had this perfect vision of the first stages of a career path: applying, getting admitted, then graduating from a reputable university, searching for vacancies, applying for the job, going through tests and interviews, and finally, getting the perfect offer. In reality, unfortunately, I had a problem already with the first step: I did not get into the university I wanted to. I completely broke down and honestly had no idea what to do. Nevertheless, I decided to try my luck. I accepted the second offer and started my Sociology BA in Budapest.
Sociology turned out to be super interesting, and throughout the BA I had many stimulating courses and learned about inspiring topics. Once I decided to specialize in European studies I knew I needed to do a master’s degree abroad. To start right after graduation, I had to take an internationally recognized English language exam, which I failed the first time. I was heartbroken once again and very disappointed in myself, but I figured this gap year is the perfect opportunity to advance my language proficiency and get familiar with the literature required for the desired MA programmes. This is how I ended up partially spending my gap year in Wales, working in a cafe and practising the language.
For the second shot, I passed the language exam with a good score, but I still did not get admitted to my desired European studies master programme. However, I got accepted to an MSc in Social Networks in a Sustainable Society! This was one of the best failures of my life so far - little did I know it back then. Not knowing what awaits me, I packed my stuff and moved to the Netherlands to continue my academic journey at the University of Groningen.
Halfway through my first year in Groningen, I realized two things. First, I did not want to leave the city just yet, and second, I still wanted to learn about European politics, societies and cultures. I talked about my ambitions with my supervisor who advised me to apply for the Erasmus Mundus master’s programme, Euroculture. He supported me throughout the process and provided me with a wonderful recommendation letter. Shortly after my application, I received a friendly email and an invitation for an interview. I vividly remember how excited I was. The interview went well, and a few days later I was notified: I am in! Throughout my two years as a Euroculture student, I spent two semesters in Groningen, an Erasmus semester in Strasbourg, France, and a research internship semester in Krakow, Poland.
The last semester of the master’s program didn’t turn out the way I planned. I just moved back to Groningen and was ready to close my student years when COVID-19 broke out and everything shut down in a minute. Like many of my friends, I had to leave the Netherlands and move back to my home country, Hungary. I was 24/7 at home, writing my thesis and attending online classes. It was a rather lonely process and the stress just started to hit hard when I realized I also needed to look for a job in the middle of a pandemic.
I started to lose hope and felt downhearted. Then approximately forty CVs, motivation letters and many rejections later (that felt like an eternity), I was invited to an interview with the Head of the European Parliament’s Liaison Office in Hungary. The interview went well, and I started working a few months later as a Schuman Trainee.
However, working in the EPLO in Budapest in the middle of a pandemic was not what I expected professional life would look like. In order to comply with the health and safety measures, we were mostly working from home, which meant no networking, no events and no travels. In addition, I had to set up a “home office” which I did not calculate to be this challenging. Despite everything, I still tried to seize my options and make the best out of this time; I attended several internal online events and courses, some of which would not have even been possible in normal times.
After I finished my traineeship the job hunt started all over again. By that time I was prepared to fail, to be flexible and to adapt. This is how I ended up at my current job. I know that whatever life brings upon me, I know my directions and I will be just fine going towards my goals slowly but surely!
Takeaway lessons from my study and career path:
- The experience of failure is difficult to process but is often very useful. Regardless of how carefully we plan something, unexpected things do happen and can turn the tables on us. Learning to be flexible is in our best interest! This does not mean to fully give up on our dreams, rather to be flexible within our framework. In other words, it is necessary to have directions and ideas about our destination but we should make the best out of what we can. We never know how other opportunities will help us reach our goals.
- Failure can also be a chance to improve ourselves and invest in our future. A gap year for example can provide an opportunity to learn languages, deepen knowledge, or simply relax and unwind to gather energy for something new.
- Role models in our life can serve as a solid ground for motivation. These people can be professors, fellow students, celebrities, friends and family members who can remind us not to let go of our dreams. Sometimes it is even better to have not only role models but also mentors ! Don’t be shy, get out of your comfort zone and reach out to people who can help or guide you! Ask them about their opinion, tips and feedback and talk with them about their career path. I know this pandemic situation did not make things easier for us, but you can always ask for a virtual meeting, a walk or a coffee!
- Don’t be upset if you do not find something for the first few shots. You never know what the employer is looking for; oftentimes there is nothing wrong with you, they are just looking for other qualities or attributes. When you lose focus, try to articulate your goals. You can just write a note or a reminder for yourself, a motivational text or talk to people around you. This can help to keep in mind what is important.
- Try to be ready to take on the next adventure and have some updated CVs at hand because you never know when you will bump into an opportunity. When you apply for a job make sure that your CV contains only relevant information about your experiences and that your motivation letter is reflecting on what is in the job description and requirements. You can also check out the RUG Careerservices for options, tips and vacancies.
I am happy to help you with any questions you have about the RUG or your kickstart in Groningen. You can contact me via my personal page.
About the author
I am a Hungarian citizen, enthusiastic about European societies, and politics. For this very reason, I have always wanted to study abroad and get familiar with different new cultures and disciplines. I have graduated from the EMJMD Euroculture from the University of Strasbourg, University of Groningen and the Jagiellonian University of Krakow and holding an MSc in Social Networks from the University of Groningen. Experienced in research and focused on socio-political issues, my long-term goal is to work on policies that facilitate the intellectual and social development of European citizens.